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HIS exegetical Commentary on the Acts of the 
Apostles has occupied the attention of the writer 
for several years. Being engaged in the pastoral 
oversight of a tolerably populous parish, he has 
of course been able to devote to it only a limited portion of 
time; but he has not ventured on its publication without a 
careful consultation of all the authorities, both English and 
German, within his reach. 

The Acts of the Apostles is distinguished from the other 
books of the New Testament by this important peculiarity, 
that it comes much in contact with many well-known facts 
of the ancient world, and thus admits of many illustra¬ 
tions from external sources of information. The Epistles 
treat chiefly of Christian doctrine and practice, and for the 
most part can only be explained and illustrated by internal 
criticism and mutual comparison. The scene of the Gospel 
narratives, on the other hand, is almost wholly confined to 
the narrow limits of Palestine, and profane history can there¬ 
fore afford very little assistance in their study. But the 
Acts of the Apostles touches at every point on the history 
of the world. Countries and cities renowned in ancient 
times were visited by Paul and his companions; and persons 
who played an important part in the history of the world 
have also their places in the history of the church. 

St. Chrysostom complains that in his days the Acts of the 
Apostles was comparatively neglected; and the same com- 



plaint would not be unwarrantable in the present day, when 
many are disposed to regard the Acts as of secondary import¬ 
ance compared with the Gospels and the Epistles. There 
appears to be no sufficient ground for such an opinion. The 
Acts of the Apostles may serve a different purpose from that 
of the rest of the New Testament, but is not on that account 
of inferior importance. It constitutes the continuation of 
the Gospels, and the necessary introduction to the Epistles. 
It contains the history of the development of the church—of 
the growth of those principles which Jesus Christ brought 
down from heaven and planted in the heart of humanity. 
It is the model of church history, and the compendium of 
the principles of church government. It contains notices 
of the lives of the holy apostles, and first martyrs and con¬ 
fessors ; and without it we would be almost wholly ignorant 
of the history of Paul, the greatest of them all, the noblest 
and most influential of the children of men. 

There are few works in our country which profess to be 
criticisms on the Acts of the Apostles. Alford and Words¬ 
worth both treat of it in their Greek Testaments: the notes 
of the former are valuable for their conciseness and critical 
sagacity; whilst those of the latter are distinguished for 
their scholarship and patristic learning. The only purely 
critical work in this country, of which the author is aware, 
which treats separately of the Acts, is the Commentary by 
the Rev. William Humphry of Trinity College, Cambridge; 
a work certainly of great value in a philological point of 
view, but professedly of an elementary or introductory cha¬ 
racter, and without any minute treatment of the various and, 
important discussions to which the Acts of the Apostles has 
given rise. In America there is the admirable Commentary 
of Dr. Hackett, decidedly the best work on the subject in 
the English language. The edition of it in this country, 
published by the Bunyan Society, is defective, and is rendered 



in a great degree worthless by the omission of many of Dr. 
Hackett’s most valuable critical observations. The transla¬ 
tion of the text annexed to that edition is, however, of con¬ 
siderable value. The second part of the Acts, which recounts 
the missionary labours of Paul, has recently been fully dis¬ 
cussed, and much learning and research have been brought 
to bear upon it. Two works are especially instructive, and 
deserve careful perusal— The Life and Epistles of St. Paul 
by Lewin, and the classical work on the same subject by 
Conybeare and Howson: in the former the historical 
connections of the Acts are chiefly stated, and in the 
latter its geographical relations. Neither of those works, 
however, professes to be a critical examination of the book 

In Germany, critical works on the Acts, or on detached 
portions of it, are very numerous. The works of Baur, espe¬ 
cially his Apostel Paulus, the Commentary of Zeller, and 
other writings of the Tubingen school, are distinguished for 
their ability, and have called forth a multitude of learned 
treatises on the Acts. De Wette’s Commentary is most 
valuable for its critical notes, its grammatical details, and 
its exegesis. The works of Lange, Lekebusch, Oertel, 
Olshausen, and Baumgarten, are highly to be commended, 
as exhibiting much of that profound scholarship which is 
the peculiar characteristic of German theologians. The 
Commentary of Lechler in Lange’s Bihelwerk is one of great 
excellence, exhibiting at once the erudition of an accomplished 
scholar and the piety of a Christian. The third edition, 
recently published, is enriched with an enlarged introduction 
and many important additional remarks. But by far the 
most valuable work on the Acts, and that from which the 
author has derived greater assistance than from all other 
works put together, is Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte. This work 
cannot be too highly praised : it is the perfection of a Com- 


mentary, at once full and concise, though unhappily some¬ 
what tainted with rationalistic opinions. It is a matter of 
surprise that the Commentaries of this great man, perhaps 
the most eminent of living biblical critics, have never been 
translated into English. It would be a great boon to English 
theological students, who are unacquainted with German, 
if the enterprising publishers of the u Foreign Theological 
Library ” would make them a part of their series. 

Two noted books dealing with this subject have been 
published since this Commentary was written—Dr. David¬ 
son’s Introduction to the New Testament , and Renan’s Saint 
Paul. The author has given these works his careful 
consideration, and has embraced in the body of the Com¬ 
mentary, or in notes, such references to them as appeared 
to him to be requisite. But he found that, with all their 
undoubted ability, they added but little to the elaborate 
criticisms of the German theologians. Dr. Davidson’s book 
belongs to the Tubingen school, and the opinions adopted 
are similar to those of Baur and Zeller. It appears to the 
author that neither Renan’s Saint Paul , nor his previous 
work, Les Apotres , which deals in his wonderfully arbitrary 
manner with the earlier portion of the Acts, can be regarded 
as an important contribution to the literature of the subject, 
or is likely to take much hold on the English mind. Despite 
the remarkable charm of his style, and his unquestionable 
scholarship, he wants the critical acumen of Baur. His 
arbitrary conjectures, the unwarrantable theories which he 
builds on the slightest foundations, appear to the author to 
deprive his work of much substantial value, and give it the 
tone of a romance rather than a history. Plausible though 
he be, Renan is far from being a formidable antagonist of 
sound theology. These works proceed, however, from wholly 
different fundamental opinions from those which the author 
entertains, and on which he has based his Commentary. 



A few words are necessary, in explanation of the method 
adopted in the composition of the present Commentary. 

The translation is not from the textus receptus , but from 
the last (the seventh) edition of Tiscliendorf’s Novum Testa- 
mentum Greece , now generally accepted as the best critical 
edition of the text. The Critical Notes contain the authority 
for the readings of Tischendorf, when they differ materially 
from the readings of the textus receptus. When the author 
has differed from Tischendorf with regard to the correct 
reading of any passage, he has stated his reasons for it in 
the Exegetical Remarks. The quotations in Greek in the 
Exegetical Remarks are from the text of Tischendorf, and 
not from the textus receptus. 

The principal part of the Commentary consists of the 
Exegetical Remarks. The meaning of the text has been 
carefully examined; and all information which the author 
could gather from external sources has been brought to bear 
upon its elucidation. The apparent discrepancies between 
the Acts and other -authorities—and, in short, all those diffi¬ 
culties which are started by Baur and De Wette—have been 
met, and never in a single instance wilfully omitted. The 
work, however, it is to be recollected, professes to be purely 
exegetical: the dogmatical aspects of the Acts have not been 
considered at all, nor has any attempt been made to draw 
practical inferences. The Commentary does not profess to 
be a contribution to dogmatic theology or practical religion. 

Several discussions on various questions of more than usual 
importance or difficulty are treated of separately. These are 
generally inserted as appendices or notes to the sections in 
which the points discussed are specially adverted to. Various 
geographical notices in regard to the places mentioned in 
the Acts have not been thought wholly inappropriate to the 
present work, and it is to be hoped may be found to be of 



In conclusion, the author is anxious to say that it has been 
his special endeavour to avoid all theological intolerance, and 
to discuss the opinions of those from whom he differs most 
with candour and deference, not only from a sincere respect 
for the distinguished abilities and learning of the greater 
number of the authors whose opinions he has had occasion 
to consider, but especially because he believes himself to 
have been actuated solely by the desire to discover and 
express the truth, and to defend it by reason and not by 
passion; and he has attempted to form his judgment anew 
on all the points discussed with as little bias as possible from 
preconceived opinions. It is right, however, to say that his 
firm belief in the reality of miracles, and in the resurrection 
of Christ, renders his principles of interpretation diametri¬ 
cally opposed both to the Rationalism of Kuinoel, and to the 
mythical explanation of the Tubingen school. 

Blantyre Manse, 1870. 




Introduction, ....... 1 

1. The Authorship of the Acts, .... 2 

2 . The Sources of Luke’s Information, . . .16 

3. The Readers for whom the History was intended, . 21 

4. The Design of the Acts, . . . . .23 

5. Time and Place of the Composition of the Acts, . . 29 

6 . The Language and Text of the Acts, . . .30 

7. Arrangement of the Acts, . . . .33 

8 . Chronology of the Acts, . . . . .34 



Section 1 . The Ascension—Ch. i. 1-12, . . .39 

,, 2. The Election of Matthias—Ch. i. 13-26, . . 54 

,, 3. The Miracle of Pentecost—Ch. ii. 1-13, . . 68 

On the Gift of Tongues, . . . .80 

,, 4. The Discourse of Peter at Pentecost—Ch. ii. 14-36, . 91 

On the Nature of Hades, . . . .105 

,, 5. Effects of Peter’s Discourse—Ch. ii. 37-47, . . 108 

,, 6. The First Miracle—Ch. iii. 1-26, . . . 120 

,, 7. Peter and John before the Sanhedrim—Ch. iv. 1-22, 138 

On the Sanhedrim, .... 152 

,, 8 . Prayer of the Church, and Community of Goods— 

Ch. iv. 23-37, 





Section 9. Internal Danger and External Progress of the Church 

—Ch. v. 1-16, ..... 169 

10. Second Arrest of the Apostles—Ch. v. 17-42, . 183 

11. The Election of the Seven—Ch. vi. 1-7, . . 201 

12. Stephen before the Sanhedrim—Ch. vi. 8-15, . 213 

On the Synagogues, .... 224 

13. The Defence of Stephen—Ch. vii. 1-53, . . 228 

General Remarks on Stephen’s Speech, . . 255 

14. Martyrdom of Stephen—Ch. vii. 54-60, . . 259 

15. Planting of the Church in Samaria—Ch. viii. 1-13, 270 

On Samaria, ..... 281 

16. Mission of Peter and John to Samaria—Ch. viii. 

14-25, ...... 286 

17. Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch—Ch. viii. 26-40, 298 

18. Conversion of Paul—Ch. ix. 1-19, . . . 313 

19. Paul’s Ministry at Damascus—Ch. ix. 19-30, . 331 

20. The Miracles of Peter—Ch. ix. 31-43, . . 347 

21. Visions of Cornelius and Peter—Ch. x. 1-23, . 357 

22. Conversion of Cornelius—Ch. x. 23-48, . . 372 

23. Peter’s Apology—Ch. xi. 1-18, . . . 386 

24. The First Gentile Church—Ch. xi. 19-30, . . 394 

25. Persecution by Herod—Ch. xii. 1-19, . . 410 

On James the Lord’s Brother, . . . 422 

26. Death of Herod—Ch. xii. 19-25, . . . 430 


HE title, u The Acts of the Apostles ” (7 rpd%ec<; rwv 
airoaroXcov), would be readily suggested by the 
contents of the work. Upafet? is the Greek term 
commonly employed for res gestee : thus, 

Kvpov, u the actions of Cyrus ” (Xen. Cyr. i. 2 , 16 ). Whether 
this title proceeded from the author himself is doubtful; but 
it is certainly very ancient, and occurs in the earliest notices 
of this book. The work is so called in the Muratorian Canon, 
and by Clemens Alexandrinus and Tertullian. There is 
some variation in the readings of the title in the different 
manuscripts. Four uncial manuscripts (A, E, G, and H) 
have 7rpa^et? tcov dyiwv diroGToXwVy the reading adopted by 
the textus receptus. The Codex Bezae (D) has 7 Tpa^is diroa- 
toXcov. The Vatican MS. (B) has 7 diroaToXwVy the 
reading adopted by Tischendorf, Lachmann, Bornemann, 
Meyer, Wordsworth, and Alford, as being the most simple, 
and probably the most ancient. 

Several critics (De Wette, Ebrard) have challenged the 
appropriateness of this title as an indication of the contents 
and design of the work. It has been asserted that it is at 
once too narrow and too comprehensive: too narrow, as the 
work contains the actions of teachers who were not apostles, 
as the proto-martyr Stephen, and Philip the evangelist; and 
too comprehensive, as of the apostles only Peter and Paul 
are prominently brought forward; and John, James his 
brother, and James the son of Alpheus (if indeed James, 
the Lord’s brother, is to be regarded as the apostle of that 
name), are only incidentally mentioned. And yet it would 
VOL. I. A 



be difficult to invent a more appropriate title. Kuinoel 
supposes that clttocttoXol is employed in a wide sense, to de¬ 
note the teachers of the Christian religion generally, even 
although they were not apostles strictly so called. But such 
a latitude of meaning is unnecessary ; for, as Meyer observes, 
the title sufficiently indicates the nature of the work, in¬ 
asmuch as the development and diffusion of the Christian 
church — the general contents of the book — were effected 
chiefly by the apostles, particularly by Peter, the apostle of 
the circumcision, and by Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles. 


The author is not named, but it is the almost universal 
opinion that this was Luke, the author of the third Gospel. 
The proofs of this are very strong, amounting almost to a 
demonstration. They may be arranged under two distinct 
heads: the testimony of the Christian Fathers, and the re¬ 
lation of the Acts to the third Gospel. 

We have the explicit testimony of the Christian Fathers. 
The allusions to the Acts by the apostolic Fathers are not 
numerous, and are somewhat vague. Their extant writings 
are few, and they seldom refer directly to the books of 
Scripture. The most definite allusion is in the Epistle of V 
Polycarp to the Philippians (a.d. 108), where we find the 
words, u Whom God hath raised, having loosed the pains of 
death ” (ov ey etpev 6 0eo? Aucra? ra? mSlv&s rov aSov), a 
highly probable allusion to Acts ii. 24. The Acts was known 
to the author of the Clementine Recognitions (a.d. 175), as 
is evident from the nature of the references in that work to 
Simon Magus and Gamaliel. 1 The first direct quotation 
occurs in the Epistle of the Churches of Lyons and Vienne 
(a.d. 177), where we have these words: “They prayed for 
those who were so bitter in their hostility, like Stephen, that 
perfect martyr, ‘ Lord, lay not this sin to their charge ’ ” 
(Euseb. Hist. Heel. v. 2). The first Father, so far as is known, 
who mentions Luke as the author of the Acts, is Irenaeus 

1 See Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , pp. 60-62. 



(a.d. 178). “ That Luke,” he observes, u was inseparable 

from Paul, and his fellow-worker in the gospel, he himself 
shows ; not indeed boasting of it, but impelled by truth itself. 
‘For,’ he says, ‘when Barnabas and John, who is surnamed 
Mark, separated from Paul, and had sailed to Cyprus, we 
came to Troas; and when Paul had seen in a dream a man 
of Macedonia, saying, Come over to Macedonia, and help 
us, immediately,’ says he, ‘ we endeavoured to go into Mace¬ 
donia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to 
preach the gospel to them’” (adv. Hoer. iii. 14, 1). The 
Muratorian Canon (a.d. 170 x ) also ascribes the Acts to 
Luke: a The acts of all the apostles are written in one book. 
Luke relates the events of which he was an eye-witness to 
Theophilus.” Clemens Alexandrinus (a.d. 190) makes the 
same statement: u As Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, 
records Paul to have said, ‘ Ye men of Athens, I perceive 
that ye are in all things too superstitious’” (, Stromata v.). 
Tertullian (a.d. 200) frequently quotes the Acts, and once 
expressly ascribes its authorship to Luke (de Jejuniis, ch. 
x.). Origen (a.d. 230), commenting on the Epistle to the 
Hebrews, says : u Some suppose that it was written by Cle¬ 
ment, who was Bishop of Rome, and others by Luke, who 
wrote the Gospel and the Acts ” (Euseb. Hist. JEccl. vi. 26). 
And Eusebius (a.d. 325) places the Acts among those books 
which were universally acknowledged; and as to its author¬ 
ship he observes: u Luke, who was born at Antioch, and 
by profession a physician, being for the most part connected 
with Paul, and familiarly acquainted with the rest of the 
apostles, has left us two inspired books, the institutes of 
that spiritual healing which he obtained from them. One of 
these is his Gospel, in which he testifies that he has recorded 
as those who were from the beginning eye-witnesses and 
ministers of the word delivered to him; whom also, he says, 
he has in all things followed. The other is his Acts of the 
Apostles, which he composed not from what he had heard 

1 According to Tischendorf, the Muratorian Canon was written a little 
after the age of Pius i. (a.d. 142-157), about a.d. 170. See Westcott on 
the Canon } p. 186. 



from others, but from what he had seen himself” {Hist. 
Eccl. iii. 4). 1 

This general testimony of the Christian Fathers was called 
in question by the early heretics, and that not on historical 
grounds, but from purely dogmatical reasons, because the 
contents of the Acts did not agree with their opinions. 
Thus the Ebionites rejected it, because it taught the recep¬ 
tion of the Gentiles without circumcision into the Christian 
church ; the Marcionites, for an opposite reason, because 
they could not endure its doctrine concerning the connection 
of Judaism and Christianity; the Severians, because their 
ascetic principles were incompatible with the teaching of 
Paul recorded in the Acts ; and the Manichaeans, on account 
of the history of the descent of the Holy Ghost. 2 Not until 
the time of Photius, in the ninth century, was any mention 
made of another author: u Some,” he says, u believed the 
writer to be Clement of Rome, others Barnabas, and others 
Luke the evangelist,” — an assertion unsupported by the 
Christian Fathers, and which seems merely to be the arbi¬ 
trary opinion of individuals. Photius himself concurred in 
the general opinion of the church as to the authorship of Luke. 
Chrysostom, in his homilies on the Acts, makes the strange 
statement, that u many Christians were unacquainted with 
the existence of the book, and with the name of the author” 
(Horn, i.),—a statement which is evidently a rhetorical ex¬ 
aggeration, because in his time this book was regularly read 
in the Greek Church between Easter and Whitsuntide. 
There might, however, have been circumstances which then 
led to the comparative neglect of the Acts, and to a pre¬ 
ference being given to the Gospels and the Epistles. 

Another and distinct line of argument is derived from the 
relation of the Acts to the third Gospel. The Acts professes 

1 See, for other testimonies from the Fathers, Lardner’s Works; David¬ 
son’s Introduction to the New Testament , vol. ii. pp. 1-3 ; Westcott on the 
Canon of the New Testament , and similar works. To the above testi¬ 
monies have also to be added the Syriac and Latin versions, which our 
best critics agree were made about the middle of the second century. 

2 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 3. 



to be written by the same author : it alludes to the Gospel 
as u the former treatise,” and is addressed to Theophilus, the 
same person for whose special use the Gospel was written. 
This identity of authorship was never called in question by 
the early church ; and in modern times biblical critics have 
shown that there is such an identity of diction and style as 
proves that both works must have proceeded from the same 
person. Dr. Davidson, in his Introduction to the New 
Testament , mentions no less than forty-seven terms which 
are peculiar to the writer, and which occur in both works, 
but nowhere else in the New Testament. 1 Indeed, the state¬ 
ment that the Acts and the third Gospel are the composition 
of one author, has seldom, if ever, been called in question. 
Even De Wette observes: u It is certain that the writer is 
the author of the third Gospel, and his peculiarity of style 
remains the same in both works, and in the Acts of the 
Apostles from the beginning to the end.” 2 And so also 
Zeller remarks : “ If we combine all these arguments, re¬ 
ferring to the language and construction of both writings, 
to their contents, their design, and their composition, we have 
every reason to credit the assertion of the Acts, and the 
universal testimony of tradition concerning the identity of 
the author with the writer of the Gospel.” 3 Admitting this 
sameness of authorship, it follows that the whole series of 
testimonies which assert that the third Gospel was written 
by Luke, are also proofs that the Acts was written by the 
same person. 

Now the testimonies asserting that Luke is the author of 
the Gospel which bears his name are strong and numerous. 
We have an apparent allusion to this Gospel in the First 
Epistle of Clemens Rom an us to the Corinthians (a.d. 96) ; 4 

1 Davidson’s Introduction , vol. ii. p. 8. See also Davidson’s New 
Introduction , vol. ii. p. 268, and Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , pp. 414-425. 

2 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 10. 

3 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 442. 

4 “ Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: for He said, Woe to 
that man (by whom offences come)! It were better for him that he 
had not been born, than that he should offend one of my elect. It 



and it is universally admitted that it was known to Marcion 
and Justin Martyr (a.d. 140). Luke is directly asserted 
to be the author of the third Gospel by Irenasus, Tertul- 
lian, Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, and Eusebius ; indeed, 
Olsliausen has good grounds for the assertion which he 
makes : u In the primitive church there was no opposition 
either to Luke’s Gospel or to the Acts of the Apostles.” 1 

In modern times, objections have been raised, not so much 
to Luke’s being the author of the Acts, as to his being the 
companion of Paul and the eye-witness of those facts which 
he relates; and accordingly, those portions of the Acts 
which profess to be the testimony of an eye-witness, have 
been ascribed to others. The objections, however, are by no 
means formidable. 

It has, for example, been objected that Luke is not men¬ 
tioned in any of the epistles of Paul written during his 
missionary journeys. This indeed at first sight seems strange, 
but when carefully examined is easily accounted for. It 
does not appear that Luke (if the author of those portions of 
the Acts where the first person is used) was with Paul when 
he wrote these epistles. He was with Paul at Philippi (Acts 

xvi. 17), but he seems to have remained behind, because the 
personal and direct style of narrative is immediately dropped 
after Paul had left that city; and he appears not to have 
rejoined the apostle until seven years after, when the direct 
style is resumed on Paul’s return to Macedonia (Acts xx. 
5, 6). Now it was during these seven years that all these 
epistles, except the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, were 
written. Luke was not with Paul at Corinth (Acts xviii. 1), 
where the two Epistles to the Thessalonians were written ; 
nor at Ephesus (Acts xix.), where the First Epistle to the 
Corinthians, and perhaps the Epistle to the Galatians, were 
written; nor, again, when Paul wintered at Corinth (Acts 

were better for him that a mill-stone should be tied about his neck, 
and that he should be drowned in the sea, than that he should offend 
one of my little ones” (1 Clem. xlvi.). Compare with this, Luke 

xvii. 2. 

1 Olshausen on the Gospel and Acts , vol. i. p. xli. 



xx. 3), where the Epistle to the Romans was written. 1 There 
is, indeed, some probability that Luke was with Paul when 
the Second Epistle to the Corinthians was written from some 
place in Macedonia (2 Cor. ii. 13) ; and there is also a pro¬ 
bability, as Neander after Jerome and Chrysostom supposes, 
that he is alluded to in that epistle as “ the brother whose 
praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches” (2 Cor. 
viii. 18) ; 2 but be this as it may, the very indefiniteness of the 
above expression proves that distinguished fellow-labourers 
might be with Paul, and yet not be named by him in his 
epistles. It was by no means his practice to specify all those 
who were with him; and in two of his epistles, in that to the 
Galatians and in that to the Ephesians, no names are given. 

Another objection is, that there is no mention of Luke in 
the Epistle to the Philippians. According to the Acts of the 
Apostles, the writer of the narrative, where the direct style is 
employed, was with Paul when he first preached the gospel 
in Philippi (Acts xvi. 16); and, as stated above, it would seem 
that he remained there for several years. It is also certain 
that the Epistle to the Philippians was written from Rome 
during Paul’s imprisonment there (Phil. iv. 22) ; and we 
learn, both from the Acts and from other epistles of Paul, 
that Luke was with him in that city. Now, this being the 
case, if Luke were the writer of those portions of the Acts 
in which the pronoun u we” occurs, he stood in a peculiar 
relation to the church of Philippi, and therefore the omission 
of his name in an epistle to that church is considered as in¬ 
explicable. But in the Epistle to the Philippians there are 
no salutations sent: there is merely the general declaration, 
a The brethren which are with me salute you” (Phil. iv. 21); 
and the names of these brethren would be communicated to 
the Philippians by Epaphroditus, the bearer of the epistle. 

1 Alford’s Greek Testament , vol. ii. p. 2 ; Birk’s Horns, Apostolical, 
p. 351. 

2 The subscription to this epistle declares that it was written from 
Philippi, a city of Macedonia, by Titus and Lucas. This proves that it 
was an ancient tradition that Luke was the companion of Titus on his 
mission to Corinth, although not mentioned in the body of the epistle. 



Besides, although Luke was with Paul at Rome, yet it does 
not follow that he was always with him; and therefore it is 
not to he taken for granted that he was in his company when 
the Epistle to the Philippians was written. And that this 
omission of Luke is nothing the least strange, is evident from 
a similar instance in the case of Timothy. Timothy was the 
companion of Paul when he preached the gospel in Galatia, 
and planted the churches in that country (Acts xvi. 1-6) ; 
and yet in the Epistle to the Galatians there is no special 
mention of him: if with Paul when that epistle was written, 
he is merely included in the general phrase, u All the brethren 
which are with me” (Gal. i. 2). 1 

A third objection is, that the inferior position which Luke 
occupies in the epistles of Paul, is unfavourable to the sup¬ 
position that he was for some time the companion of that 
apostle in his missionary journeys, and the narrator in the 
first person. u In the Epistles to the Colossians and to 
Philemon,” observes Mayerhoff, u which were written at an 
early period of Paul’s imprisonment, Luke is mentioned in 
such a manner that we must conclude that he only then 
became acquainted with Paul. In the Epistle to Philemon 
he occupies the last place among Paul’s fellow-labourers— 
first Epaphras, then Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, and last 
of all Lucas; and in the Epistle to the Colossians, the place 
before the last, for here Demas is put after him, who at all 
events only then became acquainted with Paul. Now, if 
Luke had actually been the companion of the apostle in his 
earlier journeys, his position not only after Timothy, who is 
honourably associated with Paul in the salutations at the 
commencement of both epistles, but after Tychicus, Onesimus, 
Marcus, Jesus surnamed Justus, and Epaphras, is unsuitable 
and surprising; whereas if Luke only became acquainted 
with the apostle at Rome, it is entirely natural, and he shares 
a similar position with Demas, with whom he appears to 
stand in the same relation to the apostle.” 2 But such reason¬ 
ing is singularly weak. There is no proof that Paul in his 

1 See Davidson’s Introduction to the New Testament , vol. ii. pp. 11,12. 

2 Mayerhoff, Einleitung in die petrinischen Schriften , pp. 11, 12. 



epistles arranged his fellow-workers in accordance with the 
length of his acquaintance with them. The manner in which 
Luke is alluded to in the Epistle to the Colossians, as u Luke 
the beloved physician,” renders it probable that Paul had 
experienced his worth after a friendship of some standing. 
And the mention of persons in the epistles is a presumption 
that they were not altogether unknown to the churches to 
whom the epistles were written, and that consequently they 
were most probably Paul’s fellow-travellers in his missionary 
journeys when he visited these churches. 

Chiefly for these reasons, the Acts of the Apostles, or at 
least those portions of it which profess to come from an eye¬ 
witness, have been assigned by modern critics to other persons 
besides Luke. The person who is most frequently brought 
forward as the writer of at least a considerable portion of the 
Acts is Timothy. It has been supposed that all those parts 
where the author speaks of himself as present were written 
by Timothy. This was the opinion advanced by Schleier- 
macher, Ulrich, and Bleek. It is also supported by so dis¬ 
tinguished a critic as De Wette. According to him, the 
author of the Acts, from ch. xvi. 10 and onwards, used a 
journal written by Timothy, and allowed the first personal 
pronoun to remain. 1 The chief reason for this supposition 
is, that everywhere when Timothy is present the narrative 
is distinguished by a copiousness of detail, but that this 
ceases when Timothy is absent. This, however, is erroneous : 
Timothy was with Paul when he planted the gospel in Galatia, 
and yet the account of this is omitted in the narrative (Acts 

xvi. 6) ; and he was absent when Paul was at Athens (Acts 

xvii. 15, 16), and at Ephesus when the tumult occasioned by 
Demetrius and the craftsmen occurred (Acts xix. 22), and 
yet in both instances the narrative is minute. 

This hypothesis of the authorship of Timothy is at variance 
with the acknowledged accuracy of style of the writer of the 
Acts ; that in one part of a document, supposed to be written 
by Timothy, he should leave the first personal pronoun u we ” 
unaltered (Acts xvi. 16, xx. 5), and in another part of the 
1 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 10. 



same document should alter it into the third pronoun u they,” 
or insert the name Timothy (Acts xvii. 14, xviii. 5, xix. 22). 
The only answer that has been given to this objection is, 
that the writer or compiler of the Acts, through carelessness, 
sometimes left the u we ” of the original document unchanged, 
—a carelessness which, as Meyer observes, is something un¬ 
paralleled, and even monstrous. 1 Besides, the authorship of 
Timothy is inconsistent with the book itself. In Acts xx. 4, 5 
we read, u And there accompanied him into Asia, Sopater 
of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Se- 
cundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus; and of Asia, 
Tychicus and Trophimus. These, going before, tarried for 
us at Troas;” where it is evident that the persons named, 
among whom was Timothy, who went before, are different 
from the narrator, who remained behind with the apostle. 
To remove this objection, Ulrich proposes to read the passage 
thus : u There accompanied him into Asia, Sopater of Berea; 
and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and 
Gaius of Derbe, and Timotheus” (where, in the original 
document, eyco stood). Here a full stop is supposed, and 
then follows: u But the Asiatics, Tychicus and Trophimus, 
these (namely, the Asiatics) going before, tarried for us at 
Troas.” The catalogue of Paul’s companions is thus divided 
into two parts—those who accompanied him, and those who 
went before; and by this method Timothy is included among 
the a we ” party who accompanied Paul. But such a con¬ 
struction is unnatural, if not inadmissible, and is, as Schwan- 
beck observes, an evident makeshift, to avoid a difficulty 
arising from the plain sense of the passage. 2 

Mayerhoff goes further, and supposes that the whole of 
the Acts as well as the third Gospel was written by Timothy, 
and that Luke acted only in the capacity of a transcriber. 
“ The part of Luke,” he observes, 66 both in the Gospel and 

1 So also Renan observes: “ Such an error might only exist in a most 
careless compilation; but the third Gospel and the Acts form a work 
very well prepared, composed with reflection, and even with art; written 
by the same hand, and on a connected plan.” 

2 Schwanbeck’s Quellen der Apostelgeschichte , pp. 161, 162. 



in the Acts of the Apostles, is entirely subordinate—that of 
a transcriber of the works composed by Timothy; and it is 
only a later tradition which made Luke what he never was 
in reality,—an attendant on Paul in his journeys, and the 
author of the Acts as well as of the Gospel.” 1 This opinion 
accounts for the similarity of style pervading these two books, 
and which forms a difficulty in the way of the other hypo¬ 
thesis. But it is exposed to all the objections already brought 
forward to the partial authorship of Timothy ; and, besides, 
is encumbered with its own peculiar difficulties. No reason 
can be assigned, if Timothy were the author of the Acts and 
the third Gospel, why these works have been ascribed to the 
unknowm Luke in preference to one so well known as Timothy. 
Besides, this opinion is opposed to the manner in which 
Timothy is for the first time mentioned as 66 one who was well 
reported of by the brethren ” (Acts xvi. 2) : the author would 
hardly have thus written of himself to Theophilus. 

Another person supposed to be the author of a consider¬ 
able portion of the Acts is Silas. This opinion has been 
adopted and defended by Schwanbeck. He supposes that 
from ch. xv. 13 and onwards was written by Silas; and 
that this document was inserted by Luke, as the general 
editor, in his work, with a few trifling alterations. 2 The 
chief reason assigned for this is the minuteness with which 
the transactions at the Council of Jerusalem are recorded, 
as if the account was the report of an eye-witness. This 
hypothesis is wholly unsupported by external testimony, and 
is entirely founded on arbitrary assumption. The same ob¬ 
jection, arising from the arbitrary change from the first 
to the third personal pronoun, which was brought against 
the authorship of Timothy, applies here with equal force. 
Besides, this opinion is opposed to the manner in which 
Silas is introduced to the readers of the book along with 
Judas Barsabas, as a chief men among the brethren ” (Acts 
xv. 22). The only answer that Schwanbeck gives to this 
objection is, that this notice was either an insertion by the 

1 Mayerhoff’s Einleitung in die petrinischen ScJiriften , p. 21. 

2 Schwanbeck’s Quellen der Apostelgeschichte , pp. 168-186. 



editor, or, what is more probable, that it referred only to 
Judas, but was extended by the editor to Silas. 1 Such 
arbitrary conjectures cannot possibly be encountered by 

A fourth hypothesis, advanced by Hennel, is that Luke 
and Silas are the same person. u There is reason,” he 
observes, u to conjecture that Luke and Silas are one person. 
The pronoun c we ’ occurs in the narrative for the first time 
in ch. xvi. 10, i We endeavoured to go into Macedonia.’ 
The only companions of Paul at that time were Silas and 
Timothy (ch. xv. 40, xvi. 3, 4, 6). Accordingly, one of 
these three wrote the Acts of the Apostles. But it is evident 
from ch. xx. 4, 13, that neither Paul nor Timothy wrote 
it. Silas therefore was the author. Wherever the pronoun 
1 we ’ occurs, there is no reason against the opinion that 
Silas was of the company. The name Silas or Silvanus has 
nearly the same import as Lucas or Lucanus,—the one being 
derived from silva , a wood, and the other from lucus , a grove ; 
both being only Latinized forms from the original Greek or 
Hebrew name of the author.” 2 Hence it is inferred that 
Luke, to whom the early Fathers assigned the authorship 
of Acts, is the same as Silas, who from internal evidence 
appears to have been its author. These arguments, how¬ 
ever, have little force. The hypothesis is exposed to all the 
arguments already adduced against the partial authorship of 
Silas. In the epistles of Paul, Silas and Luke are both 
mentioned as if they were different persons,—there being 
not the slightest intimation given us of their identity. No 
argument can be based on the supposed similarity of names. 
The identity of Cephas and Peter, both signifying a rock,\ 
is not parallel, as these names do not signify similar things, 
but precisely the same thing ; and besides, they are from 
different languages, the one being Hebrew and the other 
Greek—not like lucus and silva , words of the same language. 
A man may translate his name from one language to another, 
as was done by the French refugees after the revocation 
of the edict of Nantes, who, when they came to England, 

1 Sckwanbeck’s Quellen, pp. 173, 174. 2 Ibid. p. 170. 



translated their names into English; but it is very far¬ 
fetched to argue that cognate names in the same language, 
as u Grove” and “Wood,” probably belong to the same 

We do not at present enter upon a consideration of the 
credibility of the Acts as an authentic history, because the 
examination of particular points will naturally occur in the 
course of our exposition. We would only observe that there 
are two distinct lines of argument which demonstrate the 
trustworthiness of the book. First, the agreement which 
exists between the Acts and the epistles of Paul is of 
such a nature as to prove them to have been independently ^ 
written; and thus they mutually corroborate each other. 
This line of argument has been carried out by Paley in his 
masterly work the Horce Panlince. Examples of such unde¬ 
signed coincidences will be given in their proper place. 

A second proof of the credibility of the history is the 
agreement of the narrative of the Acts with information 
derived from other sources. This agreement embraces many 
particulars. The historical transactions recorded in the Acts 
are in accordance with the information given us by such 
independent writers as Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius. 
The statements with regard to the governors of particular 
countries, and the political condition of particular cities, are 
corroborated by coins which have come down to us. 1 And 
the topography of the places mentioned in the account of the 
missionary journeys of Paul corresponds both with ancient 
geography as given by Strabo, and with the investigations 
of modern travellers. Frequently this agreement extends to 
minute particulars, and is of a complicated nature, such as ^ 
could not possibly have occurred in the work of a forger. 
We shall have frequent occasion to notice instances of such 
agreement in the course of our exposition. 

According to the views of De Wette, the second part of 
the Acts, where the author depended on his own observation 
and on his intercourse with Paul, is much more credible 

1 The reader is here specially referred to Akerman’s Numismatic 
Illustrations of the New Testament. 



than the first part, which is drawn chiefly from traditionary 
accounts. In the first part, he observes, there are u inexpli¬ 
cable difficulties, exaggerations, incorrect statements, doubt¬ 
ful facts, unsatisfactory information, and traces of ignorance 
with Jewish history and customs.” 1 But when he adduces 
proofs of such an assertion, they are found to be for the 
most part irrelevant, or difficulties which, when carefully 
examined, admit of explanation. The instances brought for¬ 
ward of apparent contradictions and misstatements will all be 
examined in their proper place. 

Baur, Zeller, Kostlin, Hilgenfeld, Schrader, and other 
writers of the Tubingen school, go much further. They 
have attempted to transfer to the Acts the mythical character 
which Strauss has assigned to the Gospels. Baur supposes 
that it was written toward the middle of the second century, 
and that it is not a purely historical work, but a conciliatory 
treatise by a disciple of Paul, with a view to reconcile the 
opinions of that apostle with those of Peter and the other 
original apostles. So also Zeller observes: u The Acts is the 
work of a Pauline of the Romish church: the time of its 
composition may most probably be fixed between the years 
110 and 125, or even 130, after Christ.” 2 Hence the his¬ 
torical truth in it is but small; and the miracles recorded 
are to be accounted for not from natural causes, but either 
as the inventions of the writer or as mythical tales. Such 
an attempt of extreme criticism never received much support 
in Germany; and in all probability it would have been for¬ 
gotten, had it not been for the distinguished ability and 
learning of its two great promoters and defenders, Baur and 
Zeller. It seems to have arisen entirely from the views of 
the school regarding the impossibility of miracles; and as the 
natural solution of miracles had failed, they endeavoured to ' 
substitute their mythical hypothesis. We shall revert to this 
subject when we consider u the design of the Acts.” 

We have little information concerning Luke himself, the 
author of the Acts. His name Lucas is a contraction for 

1 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 12. 

2 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 488. 



Lucanus, but is not to be confounded with Lucius (Acts 
xiii. 1; Rom. xvi. 21). He is thrice mentioned by Paul in 
his epistles. In the Epistle to the Colossians he is described 
as Luke a the beloved physician” (Col. iv. 14) ; in the 
Epistle to Philemon he sends his salutations with others of 
Paul’s fellow-labourers (ver. 24); and in the Second Epistle 
to Timothy he is mentioned as being with the apostle when 
he stood before Caesar (2 Tim. iv. 11). Nothing is known of 
his native place. Eusebius informs us that he was a native 
of Antioch {Hist. Heel. iii. 6), but this may arise from con¬ 
founding him with Lucius of Cyrene (Acts xiii. 1) ; others 
fix on Troas as his native city, where he first joined the 
apostle; and others on Philippi, where he seems to have 
resided for several years. We learn from Col. iv. 14 that he 
was a physician; and Michaelis and others affirm that there 
are evidences of this in his writings, from the precise and 
exact manner in which he alludes to diseases. 1 Grotius sup¬ 
poses that he was originally a slave, because among the 
Romans physicians were frequently slaves; but there is no 
ground for this opinion, as physicians were not necessarily 
slaves, and as, on the contrary, among the Greeks the pro¬ 
fession was highly esteemed, and practised by men of liberal 
education. The tradition that he was a painter rests on the 
authority of Nicephorus of the fourteenth century, and is 
entitled to no credit {Hist. Eccl. ii. 43). From a statement 
made by Paul (compare Col. iv. 11 with ver. 14), it is with 
considerable probability inferred that he was a Gentile by 
birth. The purity of his Greek, and the comparative absence v 
of Hebraisms, are in favour of his Gentile origin; though 
this may also be accounted for on the supposition of his 
being a Hellenistic Jew. Indeed, his acquaintance with the 
Septuagint, his familiarity with Jewish customs, and the 
occasional Hebraisms which occur in his writings, render the 
statement of Jerome somewhat probable, that he was a pro- * 
selyte to Judaism before his conversion to Christianity. The 
statement of Epiphanius, that he was one of the seventy 
disciples, is refuted by the testimony of Luke himself in the 
1 Marsh’s Michaelis , vol. iv. pp. 229, 230. 



Gospel, where by implication he says that he was not an eye¬ 
witness and minister of the word (Luke i. 1, 2). 

We know nothing of the personal history of Luke beyond 
what is told us in the Acts. He was already a Christian 
when he joined Paul at Troas, but by whom converted is 
unknown. He accompanied Paul to Philippi, where he 
remained some years. Afterwards he rejoined the apostle 
on his return to Macedonia, and accompanied him, probably 
as one of the messengers of the churches, on his last journey 
to Jerusalem. He sailed with him from Caesarea to Rome, 
and was in his company when he wrote certain of his epistles 
from that city. The subsequent history of Luke is involved 
in obscurity. According to Epiphanius, he preached the 
Gospel in Gallia, Italy, Dalmatia, and Macedonia; Gregory 
Nazianzen reckons him among the martyrs; and according 
to Nicephorus, he returned to Greece, where he suffered 


The Acts of the Apostles bears evidence of being the 
composition of one person. The peculiar diction and simi-v 
larity of style which pervade it throughout are considered 
by the most distinguished biblical scholars to be sufficient 
proofs of this. Dr. Davidson enumerates forty terms and 
expressions peculiar to the writer, which are not confined to 
one part of the book, but pervade it throughout, besides 
numerous favourite phrases occurring in all parts of the 
work. 1 This similarity is of such a nature as to prove that, 
if the author employed written documents, he did not incor¬ 
porate them mechanically into his book unchanged, or with 
only slight alterations; but he so altered them as to impress 
upon them the peculiarities of his own style, and to pervade 
them with his own spirit. And yet, on the other hand, this 
similarity does not exclude a certain deviation of style per- 

1 Davidson’s Introduction , vol. ii. pp. 4-6 ; Davidson’s New Introduc¬ 
tion , vol. ii. pp. 261-265 ; Zeller’s ApostelgeschicTite , p. 388 ; Lekebusck’s 
Apostelgeschichte, pp. 37-79. 




ceptible in different portions of the book, as will be after¬ 
wards observed; a deviation, however, not at variance with 
the fact that there was only one author. In short, the Acts 
is not the work of a mere annalist or compiler, but of a highly 
characteristic historian, one whose style is as marked and 
peculiar as the style of any of the other writers of the New 
Testament. Moreover, in the book itself there are numerous 
references to what has been already said, and which go to 
prove the unity of the work. The following is a list of them 
as given by De Wette : xi. 16, compare i. 5; xi. 19, compare 
viii. 1 ; xii. 25, compare xi. 30; xv. 8, compare xi. 47 ; xv. 
58, compare xiii. 13 *, xvi. 4, compare xv. 23; xviii. 5, com¬ 
pare xvii. 15 ; xix. 1, compare xviii. 23; xxi. 8, compare vi. 5; 
xxi. 29, compare xx. 4; xxii. 20, compare vii. 58. 1 

It is an interesting matter of inquiry, What were the 
sources of Luke’s information ? Whence did he obtain the 
materials out of which he formed his history ? It is evident 
from the work itself that he was only an eye-witness of a 
small portion of the transactions which he relates. He 
joined the apostle on his second missionary journey, and 
then appears to have been separated from him for several 
years, and afterwards accompanied him on his third mis¬ 
sionary journey to Jerusalem; consequently he must have 
received at second hand the whole of the first portion of the 
Acts, and much of the second. In what manner, then, from 
whose testimony, or from what documents, was his history 
composed ? 

The sources of Luke’s information may be considered as 
threefold : personal observation, oral testimony, and perhaps 
written documents. 

The first and most direct source of information was per¬ 
sonal observation. Luke was the companion of Paul during 
a part of his travels, and was an eye-witness of several of the 
transactions which he relates. He was with Paul during his 
first visit to Philippi, he accompanied him on his last journey 
to Jerusalem, and sailed with him to Rome. In all proba- 

1 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 10. See also Davidson’s New Intro¬ 
duction , vol. ii. pp. 265-267; Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 403. 

VOL. I. B 



bility he was present at Jerusalem when the apostle was 
arrested; and it is also likely that he was at Caesarea during 
a portion of the two years of the apostle’s imprisonment in 
that city, for it was from Caesarea that he embarked with 
him to Rome. The account of the voyage to Rome bears 
indubitable marks of being written by one who was present. 1 
Thus, then, the information contained in ch. xvi. 8-40, xx., 
xxi., xxvii., and xxviii., and perhaps also in ch. xxii.-xxvi., 
was derived from direct observation. 

The second source of information is that derived from the 
testimony of others. Now here Luke would be chiefly in¬ 
debted to Paul himself. From his own mouth he would 
learn the account of that apostle’s conversion and missionary 
journeys, so that the information contained in the whole of 
the second part of the Acts (ch. xiii.-xxviii.) may be accounted 
for without having recourse to the supposition of written 
sources. When in Judea, where he probably resided during 
the two years of Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea, he would 
procure information from James and the church of Jeru¬ 
salem : from them he might derive his accounts of the 
ascension, the miracle of Pentecost, the acts of Peter, the 
dispute between the Hellenists and the Hebrews, the martyr¬ 
dom of Stephen and of the Apostle James. And there is 
also the information which he would obtain from the church 
of Caesarea: in that city he met with Philip the evangelist 
(Acts xxi. 8), and perhaps also with Cornelius the devout 
centurion. From this source he would derive his informa¬ 
tion concerning the evangelistic labours in Samaria, the con¬ 
version of the Ethiopian eunuch, the visions made to Peter 
and Cornelius, and the particulars connected with the death 
of Herod Agrippa I. Schneckenburger lays great stress on 
Luke’s acquaintance with Philip at Caesarea; and, indeed, it 
is highly probable that much of his information was derived 
from him. Thus, then, by far the greater portion, if not the 
whole of the first part of the Acts, would be obtained from 
those who were directly connected with the transactions 

1 The reader is here referred to the interesting work of the late James 
Smith, Esq. of Jordanhill, On the Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. 



recorded, u who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the 

The third source of information mentioned is written 
documents. It is indeed questioned whether there were any 
such used by Luke in his composition of the Acts. So far 
as we can see, the accounts contained in it might be obtained 
from the direct testimony of the eye-witnesses themselves; 
and if so, it is more probable that Luke would derive his 
information from this quarter than from any written sources. 
On the other hand, most biblical critics interpret the intro¬ 
duction to Luke’s Gospel as a declaration on the part of the 
author that he availed himself of written documents in 
preparing that work: kclOoos irapeSoaav rjp.iv ol air ap^fj<; 
avToirrai real virrjpeTat <yevopevoL rod Aoyov. 1 If, then, it is 
argued he employed written documents in the composition of 
his Gospel, the probability is that he also employed them in 
the composition of his history of the apostles. Besides, it is 
a remarkable fact, that although the style of the Acts is 
substantially the same throughout, yet there is a greater 
number of Hebraisms in the first part, where he depended 
on information at second hand, than in the second part, where 
he was indebted to his own observation. 

Some critics go the length of asserting that the whole of 
the Acts is a mere mechanical compilation. Thus Schwan- 
beck affirms that the Acts is composed of the four following 
documents : first, a biography of Peter; secondly, a rhetori¬ 
cal account of the death of Stephen ; thirdly, a biography of. 
Barnabas ; and fourthly, the memoirs of Silas. He further 
affirms that Luke was a mere compiler, and did not repro¬ 
duce the contents of these sources in a free manner, and 
incorporate them in a whole, but only attached single por¬ 
tions of the different waitings to each other, and that for the 
most part unchanged. 2 The similarity of style throughout 
confutes such a supposition. If written documents were 

1 These words, however, do not necessarily affirm that Luke employed 
written documents, but may merely mean that he received his informa¬ 
tion from those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word. 

2 Schwanbeck’s Quellen der Apostelgeschichte, p. 253. 



employed, which is in itself doubtful, they are so freely 
inserted and used, that all attempts to distinguish the separate 
writings are unavailing. The letter of the Council of Jeru- 
salem, being an official document, is perhaps inserted verbatim 
(Acts xv. 23-29). Probably the same was also the case 
with the official communication of Claudius Lysias to Felix 
(Acts xxiii. 26-30). Both these short documents have 
internal marks of originality. Some also suppose that the 
early church possessed a written account of the speech of 
Stephen, their first martyr, which Luke freely used and 
inserted in his narrative. Others (Bleek, Meyer, Olshausen) 
think that the narrative of Paul’s first missionary journey, 
in company with Barnabas (ch. xiii. xiv.), may have been a 
report drawn up by the missionaries themselves. But this is 
improbable, as ch. xiii. 1 is connected with ch. xii. 25 and 
xi. 19-21; and ch. xiii. 13 is connected with ch. xv. 37, 38. 
Besides, Luke might easily have derived his information 
from the personal communications of Paul, so that he was 
under no necessity to have recourse to a written source. 

The remarks made regarding the sources of Luke’s in¬ 
formation, apply of course to the discourses which he has 
inserted in his history: these were either heard by himself, 
told by ear-witnesses, or were perhaps derived from written ' 
documents. It is not, however, to be supposed that all the 
discourses are given in the precise words in which they were ^ 
delivered. With some of them this was impossible, because 
they were spoken in the Aramaic language, as Paul’s 
defence before the Jews (Acts xxii. 2), and probably also 
Peter’s discourse on the day of Pentecost, and Stephen’s 
apology before the Sanhedrim. In the case of others, Luke 
has impressed on them his own style and diction. Still, 
however, it must not be supposed that they were composed 
by Luke: they bear internal marks of being the discourses 
of those to whom they are ascribed. Learned critics have 
shown that, in the discourses of Peter and Paul in particular, 
there are not only the sentiments peculiar to these apostles, 
but often their favourite phraseology. Thus, as Alford 
remarks, in the discourse to the Ephesian elders, there is a 



rich storehouse of phrases and sentiments peculiar to Paul. 1 
Instances of such internal marks of genuineness in the dis¬ 
courses will occur in the course of the exposition. It is also 
a matter of dispute whether the discourses are given in their 
fulness, or whether we have in general mere abbreviations 
containing their substance and spirit. Certainly the speech 
of Tertullus, and the answer of Paul in the trial of the 
apostle before Felix, look like abbreviations. But, on the 
other hand, some of Paul’s discourses, as his address to the 
Athenians, and his defence before Agrippa, are so full and 
graphic, that it is probable they are given us entire. 

The Acts of the Apostles appears to have been begun in 
the form of a diary kept by the author. The journey of 
Paul from Macedonia, to his arrival in Jerusalem, is given 
with great minuteness: the references to time are definite, 
and almost every day is marked by the events which hap¬ 
pened on it; so that it would seem as if a regular diary were 
kept. And the same remark is true with regard to the voyage 
from Caesarea to Rome: there is in the narrative the same 
preciseness with regard to time, and the same minuteness of 
detail. Afterwards this journal would be increased by Luke’s 
own personal knowledge of what formerly happened when he 
first joined the apostle at Troas, and by information received 
at second hand. This may account for the peculiar character 
of the work, giving first the general annals of the church, 
and then dwelling almost exclusively on the personal labours 
of the Apostle Paul. 2 



The Acts of the Apostles, as well as the third Gospel, was 
addressed to Theophilus, wdio, from the epithet Kpanare , 
most noble , being applied to him, was probably a Greek 
Christian of rank. 3 Kuinoel, Heinrichs, and others, suppose 

1 Alford’s Greek Testament , vol. ii. pp. 13-15. 

2 See this opinion stated and illustrated by Alford in his Greek Testa¬ 
ment , vol. ii. pp. 8-15. 

3 See note to Acts i. 1. 



that it was written for the use of this individual, and that 
the sole design of the author was to impart to him informa¬ 
tion concerning the diffusion of the gospel. So also Meyer 
remarks that the work was primarily a private composition 
written for Theophilus, and that its design was similar to 
that of the Gospel—namely, to impart to him accurate infor¬ 
mation concerning Christianity, in order to confirm him in 
the faith; and that it was partly the wants of Theophilus, 
and partly Luke’s sources of information, that guided the 
author in the choice of materials for his history. 1 But this 
is a partial and meagre view of the subject. Luke, in in¬ 
scribing his work to Theophilus, probably merely followed 
the practice of dedicating his book to some person of rank 
and influence. 

We are led to believe that Luke wrote his history for the 
instruction of Christians in general: his object was to pre¬ 
serve the memorials of the apostles for the good of the 
church. It may be the case that it was designed primarily ^ 
for the use of the Gentile Christians, of which class Theo¬ 
philus may be considered as the representative; but not to 
the exclusion of the Jewish Christians. Its being written in 
Greek, and not in Hebrew, is no reason for supposing that 
it was not intended for the use of the Jewish Christians, 
because the Jews had adopted the language of the countries 
where they resided; and even in Palestine, it would seem 
that Greek was then generally understood. The Epistle to 
the Hebrews, addressed primarily to the Jewish Christians, 
and in all likelihood to those resident in Judea, was written 
in Greek, and indeed there is no record of its ever being 
translated into Hebrew. 

It may be asked, In what sense is it affirmed that the 
Acts, being addressed to no particular church, but to an 
individual, was intended for the Christian church at large ? 
One understands for what publicity the epistles of Paul were 
intended, being addressed to Christian communities; but 
how was it meant that the Gospels and the Acts should be 
published ? But we think that the fact that these works 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. '8. 



were disseminated, is in itself a proof that their publication 
was the intention of their authors: for, on the supposition of 
their being mere private writings, their after diffusion is un¬ 
accountable, or at least would be extremely unlikely. As to 
the mode of publication in the absence of printing, we are 
comparatively ignorant; but the same ignorance applies to 
all the works of the ancients. In all probability, copies of 
these works were made by zealous Christians, and distributed 
among the different churches, and would be gradually mul¬ 


In considering the design of the Acts, we must attend to 
the statements of the author himself in the preface to his 
Gospel; because the design of the Acts must be similar to 
that of the Gospel, inasmuch as the author represents it as 
the second part (Seurepo? A- 070 ?) of his former work. Now, 
in the Gospel, Luke affirms that his design in writing was 
a to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are 
most surely believed among Christians, in order that they 
might know the certainty of those things wherein they had 
been instructed” (Luke i. 1 , 4) : in other words, to give an 
account of the life of Jesus for the information and use of ' 
Christians. And in conformity with this, in his preface to 
the Acts, he describes his former treatise, or the Gospel, as an 
account u of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach” 
(Acts i. 1 ). Hence, then, it would seem that the Acts was 
designed to be a continuation of the same work which Jesus 
began, carried on by His apostles—a record of the teaching 
and actions of the apostles; so that its title, a The Acts of the 
Apostles,” is by no means inappropriate. The Acts, then, is 
a history of the progress of the religion of Christ for the 
instruction of Christians ; or, as it is otherwise described, 

“ a history of the progress of the Christian church from 
Jerusalem to Rome:” so approximately Lardner, Mayerhoff, 
Lekebusch, Ewald, Hackett, Alford. There is no part of 
the book where any such design is formally stated, unless it is 
to be found in that statement of our Lord to His disciples: 



u Ye shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all 
Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the 
earth” (Acts i. 8). 

To this view of the subject, it is objected that this is to 
confound the contents of the book with the design which 
the author had in writing it. But in historical works, the 
contents are often the design : the simple record of events 
may be what Luke intended; or if a subjective motive be 
required, the instruction of Christians is sufficient. Again, 
it is objected that this does not account for the omissions in 
the book. Nothing; is related of the acts of most of the 
apostles, the narrative concerning Peter breaks off abruptly, 
and even the history of Paul is defective : we are not in¬ 
formed of his three years’ residence in Arabia, of his dispute 
with Peter at Antioch, of his preaching the gospel in Galatia, 
and of the result of his Roman imprisonment; and from 
2 Cor. xi. 24, 25, it would appear that only a few of his 
trials and sufferings are described. 1 But it is evident that 
Luke could not write everything that occurred, otherwise 
his work would exceed all bounds. We may not indeed be 
able to affirm in all cases on what principle he made his 
selection; but we may trace an order in his narrative— 
a record of the gradual development of Christianity. At 
first, the church is almost entirely confined to Jerusalem and 
its neighbourhood; then, after the dispersion, by reason of 
the persecution which followed the death of Stephen, it 
extends to Samaria and the adjoining provinces ; then 
Cornelius is converted, and the Gentiles are received into 
the Christian church; then missionary efforts commence at 
Antioch ; then Paul and his companions propagate the 
gospel in Asia, and carry it over to Europe, until at length 
it is established in Rome, the capital of the civilised world. 

Various other designs have been attributed to Luke. We 
have already alluded to the meagre view of Kuinoel, that 
the Acts was written simply to afford information to Theo- 
philus. Grotius supposes that the Acts is a biography of 
Peter and Paul. And certainly it is so far true that these 
1 Kuincel’s Novi Testamenti Libri Historici, vol. iii. p. 6. 



two apostles occupy a prominent place in the history: Peter 
is the leading person in the first part, and Paul in the second 
part of the Acts; but this was the case because it was chiefly 
through their instrumentality that Christianity was propa¬ 
gated. The design of the work is much wider than to give U" 
a mere biography of individuals: it relates their actions only 
when these have reference to the general history of the 
church, but it omits those private incidents which were not 
followed by any public consequences. By considering the 
Acts as a history, and not a biography, we may account for 
many omissions in the life of Paul. Thus, for example, hisu 
three years’ residence in Arabia is passed over, because it 
formed no part of his missionary labours. 

Others more in accordance with their preconceived opinions, 
or with the opinions peculiar to later times, than with any¬ 
thing found in the work itself, have ascribed apologetic or 
conciliatory designs to Luke. Micliaelis supposes that Luke 
had a twofold object in the composition of his work : first, 
to relate in what manner the gifts of the Holy Spirit were 
communicated on the day of Pentecost, and the subsequent 
miracles performed by the apostles, by which the truth of 
Christianity was confirmed; secondly, to deliver such accounts 
as proved the claim of the Gentiles to admission into the 
church of Christ,—a claim disputed by the Jews, especially at 
the time when Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. 1 So also 
Griesbach thinks that the Acts is a justification of Paul con¬ 
cerning the reception of the Gentiles into the church. Similar 
is the view taken by Paulus: he supposes the Acts to be 
the justification of the Pauline doctrine of the universality 
of Christianity." But such opinions convert an inference 
deducible from the w r ork into the design. No doubt the 
Acts teaches the reception of the Gentiles into the Christian 
church, and their equality with the Jews ; but that this was 
not the sole design of the work, is evident from its contents. 

Schneckenburger proceeds further: he carries out the idea 

1 Micliaelis’ Introduction to the New Testament , translated by Marsh, 
vol. iv. p. 330. 

2 See Lekebuscli’s Apostelgeschichte , pp. 235, 236. 



suggested by Griesbach, and assigns to the Acts a purely 
apologetic design. He supposes it to be a defence of Paul v 
against the attacks of Judaizing Christians. With this object 
in view, the author attempts to prove the perfect similarity 
between Peter and Paul, by making Peter act as Paul would 
do, as when he preached the gospel to Cornelius; and by 
making Paul act as Peter would do, as when he took on 
himself the vow of the Nazarites. So also the two parts 
into which the Acts are divided are made to correspond : in 
the first part the actions of Peter are given, and in the 
second part the actions of Paul; and between the actions of 
these two apostles there is a striking coincidence. In short, 
the parallelism between Peter and Paul pervades the whole 
book, the discourses as well as the narratives, and accounts 
both for the reception and the omission of incidents. Thus, 
for example, the dispute between Peter and Paul at Antioch, 
and the refusal of Paul to circumcise Titus, are omitted, as 
these incidents are opposed to the design of the author. 1 It 
is, however, to be observed that Schneckenburger does not 
call in question the historical credibility of the Acts; on the 
contrary, he repeatedly maintains it against its opponents. 
But what he asserts is, that the justification of Paul was the 
principle which guided Luke in his selection of the mass 
of materials before him ; so that the Acts is not so much a 
history as an apology. 

Baur, to whose opinion we have already alluded, carries 
out the theory of Schneckenburger to what we must say 
appears to be its legitimate consequences. According to 
the view of Schneckenburger, a one-sided representation is 
given of Paul: important facts are omitted or unhistorically 
stated, and the speeches inserted do not agree with the 
peculiar doctrine of Paul; and thus historical truth is sacri¬ 
ficed. Paul is converted into a Petrine Christian, and Peter V> 
into a Pauline believer. The true Paul and Peter are not 
described. u The Paul of the Acts,” observes Baur, u is 
different from the Paul of the epistles.” 2 Accordingly, 

1 Schneckenburger, Ueber den Zwech der Apostelgeschichte. 

2 See Baur’s Apostel Paulus, vol. i. 8-13. 



Baur defends the apologetic design which Schneckenburger 
supposes to be contained in the Acts, and employs it as an 
argument against its authenticity. He supposes that the 
Acts was the composition of a Pauline Christian in the second 
century, w T ith a view to reconcile Pauline and Petrine Chris¬ 
tianity : he maintains a conciliatory rather than an apologetic 

The hypothesis of Baur is merely the creation of an in¬ 
genious mind, supported by the learning of the accomplished 
scholar. The general reader must certainly fail to see any 
such trace of a conciliatory design as Baur supposes contained 
in the Acts. The opposition between the views of Paul and 
Peter is entirely fanciful; and the resemblance between the 
actions of these two apostles is certainly, to say the least, far- \j 
fetched. Nor is there the slightest trace of the use of Paul’s 
epistles in the book; whereas if the Acts were of so late a 
date as Baur supposes, the author would have employed them, 
especially as they would have furnished him with material 
in support of his conciliatory hypothesis, and in favour of 
Judaism, as when Paul enumerates the privileges of the 
Jewish nation, and expresses his ardent attachment for his 
countrymen (Rom. ix. 1-5). 1 And the supposition that the 
Acts is a fictitious work of the second century (110-130) 
is irreconcilable with the direct testimony of Irenseus, who 
lived in that century, to the authorship of Luke, with the 
undesigned coincidences between the Acts and the Pauline 
epistles, and with the general agreement between it and 
Jewish and Roman histories. In short, this hypothesis of 
Baur is unsupported by the book itself, and at variance with 
the general testimony of antiquity ; and, as Meyer observes, 
all those reasons which Baur and his followers bring forward 
do not prove what they are designed to prove, and are not 
able to overthrow the recognition of the ancient church. 2 

The opinion advanced by Baumgarten after Olshausen, 
and adopted by Lechler, Burton in his Bampton Lectures , 

1 The agreement also between the Acts and the Pauline epistles would 
have been more artificial. 

2 Meyer’s ApostelgeschicJite , p. 6. 



Wordsworth, and others, is entitled to more consideration. 
Baumgarten supposes that the Acts of the Apostles is a con- v* 
tinuation of the life of Christ. 1 He grounds this view on the 
words with which Luke describes his former treatise, as being 
an account “of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach” 

(ojv tfptjaTo 6 ’Itjctovs 7T0i€iv re /ecu hthaaKeiv). According to 
him, the word rjp^aro is not a pleonasm, but full of meaning: 
the gospel is the beginning of the doing and teaching of 
Jesus, and the Acts is the continuation. The same work » 
which Jesus began on earth, He continues in heaven. He 
Himself is the agent, the apostles are the mere instruments 
whom He employs. Not Paul, nor Peter, but Christ Himself, 
is the centre character of the Acts. In the words of Lechler : 

“ This book professes to be the second part of the Gospel of 
Luke, so that the transactions of the apostles are simply the 
continuation of the life of our Lord. This connection is 
extremely important and instructive : for it teaches us that 
the earthly life of Jesus concluded with the ascension, has 
its fruit and continued efficacy; and His heavenly life com¬ 
mencing with the ascension, has its manifestation and proof 
in the acts and experiences of the apostles and first churches.” 2 

Now, no doubt the view here expressed of the actions of 
the apostles is important and suggestive. The history of 
the church was under the immediate control of the exalted 
Redeemer, and may justly be considered as the continuation 
in heaven of the work which He had begun on earth. But 
perhaps it is pressing the idea too far to affirm, that to show 
this was the special design of Luke in writing the Acts : it 
confounds an inference which may be drawn from the work, 
or a use which may be made of it, with the design. If this 
were the intention of Luke, it would have been more clearly 
intimated and more prominently brought forward, and we 
would not have been left to infer it from a single phrase of 
doubtful interpretation. Still it asserts a great truth—the life 
of Christ in His church. As Chrysostom expresses it: “The 

1 Baumgarten’s Apostolic History, vol. i. pp. 6, 7. 

2 Lange’s Bibelwerk; Apostelgeschichte von Lechler , p. 1. See also 
Wordsworth on the Acts, pp. 2-5. 



Gospels are the history of what Jesus did and taught; the 
Acts is the history of what the other Comforter did and 
taught.” 1 


Nothing can with certainty he affirmed with regard to the 
time when the Acts was written : there is nothing in the 
book itself which would lead to a determination on this 
point. German critics in general suppose that it was written 
after the destruction of Jerusalem. This is the view advo¬ 
cated by De Wette, Ewald, and Meyer. Meyer fixes the 
date of its composition about the year 80, being, as he 
observes, nearly contemporary with the Gospel of John and 
the History of Josephus . 2 The reason, however, which these 
biblical critics assign for thus dating the Acts after the de¬ 
struction of Jerusalem, is because, according to their rational¬ 
istic views of prophecy, the Gospel of Luke, “ the former 
treatise,” was written after that event. Lechler, who is far 
removed from such rationalistic views, fixes upon the same 
date, following the tradition of Irenseus, who relates that 
Luke wrote his Gospel after the death of Peter and Paul. 

Schneckenburger thinks that he has found an indication 
of time in ch. viii. 26, aim? early epTjfios, a which is desert,” 
and which he applies to the destruction of Gaza during the 
continuance of the Jewish war; and that the absence of all 
allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem proves that that event 
had not taken place. He therefore fixes the time of writing 
after the death of Paul and during the Jewish war. For 
the same reason, Lekebusch fixes the date of composition 
about the year 70; because, he observes, the notice concern¬ 
ing Gaza proves that its fate was in the fresh recollection of 
the writer as a fact which had shortly before occurred . 3 But 

1 So also Bengel observes : non tain apostolorum , quam Spiritus sancti 
Acta describens , sicut prior liber Acta Jem Christi habet. 

2 Meyer’s ApostelgescJiichte , p. 17. The same date is fixed on by 

3 Lekebusch, ApostelgescJiichte , pp. 420-422. 



the pronoun avrij is indefinite: it may as well apply to the 
road to Gaza as to the city. 

The probability is, that both the Gospel of Luke and the 
Acts were written before the destruction of Jerusalem,— 
perhaps the former at Caesarea during Paul’s imprisonment 
there, and the latter at Pome. If the destruction of Jeru¬ 
salem had already taken place, we should have expected some 
allusion to it in the work. There is no reason why the book 
may not have been written at the very period when the 
history ends; that is to say, about the year 63, or in the 
second year of Paul’s imprisonment at Rome. This is in 
itself the most probable opinion, and there are no presump¬ 
tions against it. Why the book ends apparently so abruptly 
with the statement that Paul dwelt two whole years in his 
own hired house, will be afterwards considered. 

If the above opinion as regards the time is correct, then 
the place of composition would be Rome. Other places have 
been mentioned, as Alexandria (Mill), Antioch (Hilgenfeld), 
proconsular Asia (Kostlin), but without any presumptions in 
their favour. 


That the Acts of the Apostles was originally written in 
Greek, is a statement which admits of no dispute, and is now 
universally accepted. The opinion of Harduin, that it is 
a translation from the Latin, is wholly unfounded. The 
Greek is purer than in most of the other writings of the 
New Testament. As already observed, a similarity of style 
pervades the whole book from beginning to end; yet the 
similarity is not exact, for the first part perceptibly differs 
from the second part by a more copious use of Hebraisms. 1 
The first part exactly resembles in style the third Gospel, 
whereas the Greek in the second part is purer. The probable 
reason of this difference is, that in the first part of the Acts 
and in the Gospel Luke was dependent upon foreign sources ; 

1 For a list of these Hebraisms, see De Wette’s ApostelgescJiichte , p. 12; 
Davidson’s Introduction , vol. ii. p. 23 ; Schwanbeck’s Quellen , p. 36, etc. 



whereas the second part of the Acts being for the most part 
the testimony of an eye-witness, he was more unfettered in 
the use of his peculiar style. 

The text of the Acts, as it has come down to us, has a 
greater variety of readings than any other book of the New 
Testament, except the Apocalypse. It is not easy to assign 
a reason for this. The Acts seems to have been less read 
than the Gospels and Epistles, and this comparative neglect 
may have occasioned less anxiety to preserve its purity. 
Various attempts were also made to amend the text, and 
supposed omissions were supplied; as, for example, the three 
accounts of the conversion of Paul have been made to cor¬ 
respond even in verbal expressions. In consequence of this 
disturbed state of the text, great difficulty has been experi¬ 
enced in arriving at the correct reading. Hie liber , observes 
Matthsei, in re critiea est difficillimus et impeditissimus , quod 
multa in eo turbata sunt. The most numerous variations are 
found in the Codex Bezse. Bornemann has adopted this 
codex as containing the true readings. 66 The Codex Bezse,” 
he observes, u excels all other manuscripts in internal good¬ 
ness to an extent that is incredible, and a better text is con¬ 
tained in no other parchment which has come down to our 
time; so that the work may be said to have issued from the 
most complete and ancient fountain of all.” Such an opinion 
is unfavourably regarded by critics of the highest eminence, 
though many of the readings found in that manuscript are 
of great value and interest. By the labours of Tischendorf, 
Lachmann, and De Wette, the original text may now be 
considered, to all intents and purposes, restored. 

The following is a list of the uncial MSS. which are pre¬ 
served of the Acts of the Apostles, with the marks by which 
they are known among biblical critics :— 

X. The Codex Sinaiticus. —This celebrated ms., which it 
is proposed to designate by the Hebrew letter N, was found 
by Tischendorf in the Convent of St. Catherine on Mount 
Sinai in 1859. According to him, it belongs to the fourth 
century, and is probably the oldest MS. of the New Testa¬ 
ment. It contains the Acts entire. 



A. The Codex Alexandrinus. —This ms. was presented by 
Cvrillus Lucaris, patriarch of Constantinople, to Charles I. 
It is preserved in the British Museum. Tischendorf supposes 
that it was written about the middle of the fifth century. It 
contains the Acts entire. 

B. The Codex Vaticanus. —This is one of the oldest and 
most valuable MSS. which we have. It is preserved in the 
Vatican Library. Tischendorf assigns it to the fourth cen¬ 
tury. It has been collated by Bartolocci, Bentley, and Birch. 
The edition of it published by Cardinal Mai has been unfa¬ 
vourably judged by biblical critics. It contains the Acts entire. 

C. The Codex Ephrcemi. —This ms. is preserved in the 
Royal Library of Paris. It is so called because the works of 
Ephrem the Syrian were written over a part of it. Tischen¬ 
dorf thinks that it belongs to the fifth century. It contains 
the following fragments:—From ch. i. 2 to iv. 3; from ch. 
v. 35 to x. 42; from ch. xiii. 1 to xvi. 36; from ch. xx. 10 
to xxi. 30; from ch. xxii. 21 to xxiii. 18; from ch. xxiv. 15 
to xxvi. 19; from ch. xxvii. 16 to xxviii. 4. 

D. The Codex Bezoe or Cantabrigiensis. —This MS. is so 
called because it was presented by Beza to the University of 
Cambridge in 1581. Tischendorf supposes that it belongs 
to the sixth century. It is defective as follows:—From ch. 
viii. 29 to x. 14; from ch. xxi. 2 to xxi. 10; from ch. xxi. 
17 to xxi. 18; from ch. xxii. 10 to xxii. 20; from ch. xxii. 
29 to the end of the book. 

E. The Codex Laudianus. —This MS. is so called because 
it was presented by Archbishop Laud to the University of 
Oxford. It is supposed to have been written toward the 
close of the sixth century. It is highly praised both by 
Michaelis and Tischendorf. There is a defect from O 3e 
ITch. xxvi. 29, to nTopevOrjri,, ch. xxviii. 26. 

G. The Codex Bibliothecce Anglicce. —This ms. receives 
its name because it is preserved in the Anglican Library of 
the Augustinian monks at Rome. Tischendorf observes that 
it could not have been written before the middle of the ninth 
century. It commences at ch. viii. 10, and is complete to 
the end. 



H. The Codex Mutinensis. —This ms. is deposited in the 
Library of Modena. According to Tischendorf, it was 
written in the ninth century. It begins with ch. v. 28, and 
is defective in the following places:—From ch. ix. 39 to x. 
19; from ch. xiii. 36 to xiv. 3; the portion from ch, xxvii. 4 
to the end has been supplied in uncial letters by a later 
hand, about the eleventh century. 1 


The work is divided into two distinct parts: the first part, 
embracing the first twelve chapters, contains an account of 
the progress of Christianity among the Jews, and of its 
extension to the Gentiles; and the second part, embracing 
the remaining sixteen chapters, contains an account of the 
missionary journeys of Paul. These two parts, again, admit 
of various subdivisions. Thus the first part may be divided 
into four subdivisions—the history of the church before 
Pentecost, the progress of the church in Jerusalem, its pro¬ 
gress in Judea and Samaria, and its extension to the Gentiles. 
The second part also admits of a fourfold subdivision,— 
namely, the three missionary journeys of Paul, each of them 
beginning at Antioch and terminating at Jerusalem; and 
the account of his imprisonment. According to this plan, the 
Acts of the Apostles admits of the following arrangement:— 

Part I. Progress of the Gospel in Judea, and its Extension to 

the Gentiles. 

Sec. 1. History of the Church before Pentecost, Acts i. 

Sec. 2. Progress of the Gospel in Jerusalem, Acts ii.-vii. 

Sec. 3. Progress of the Gospel in Judea and Samaria, Acts viii. ix.- 

Sec. 4. Extension of the Gospel to the Gentiles, Acts x.-xii. 

Part II. The Missionary Labours of the Apostle Paul. 

Sec. 1. Paul’s first missionary journey, Acts xiii.-xv. 35. 

Sec. 2. Paul’s second missionary journey, Acts xv. 36-xviii. 22. 

Sec. 3. Paul’s third missionary journey, Acts xviii. 23-xxi. 16. 

Sec. 4. Paul’s imprisonment, Acts xxi. 17-xxviii. 

1 The authority for the above information is Tischendorf. See his 
Prolegomena . 

VOL. I. C 




The Acts of the Apostles evidently proceeds in a chrono¬ 
logical order; but it is extremely difficult to fix the precise 
dates of the different events recorded. Even the years of 
the birth and death of our Lord are matters of uncertainty. 
There are few notices of time given us in the earlier portion 
of the Acts, and those given are for the most part indefinite; 
but toward the close of the second portion, when Luke him¬ 
self was with the apostle, the statements as regards time are 
definite. In the Epistle to the Galatians, also, exact dates 
are given. Paul there mentions two visits which he paid to 
Jerusalem (Gal. i. 18, ii. 1) : the first corresponding with the 
visit mentioned in Acts ix. 26, three years after his conver¬ 
sion ; and the second corresponding with the visit mentioned 
in Acts xv., fourteen years after his conversion. 1 The date 
of Paul’s conversion, however, is a matter of extreme uncer¬ 
tainty. There are also several historical facts alluded to in 
the Acts, and which are mentioned by Jewish and Roman 
historians. The chief among these are the death of Herod 
Agrippa i., the famine in the time of Claudius, the expulsion 
of the Jews from Rome, and the procuratorships of Felix and 

There is only one date which can be determined with 
certainty, and that is the period of the death of Herod 
Agrippa i. Josephus tells us that he reigned three years 
under Claudius, after he had received from him the whole 
of the dominions of his grandfather Herod the Great. 
Now Claudius, immediately on his accession to the imperial 
throne in the beginning of the year 41, made Herod Agrippa 
king of Judea and Samaria; consequently the death of that 
king is to be fixed in the year 44. 

1 The second of these visits of Paul to Jerusalem is, however, a sub¬ 
ject of much dispute; and it is also disputed whether the fourteen years 
are to be calculated from the conversion of the apostle, or from his 
first visit to Jerusalem. These controverted points will be afterwards 



Another date which is nearly certain, or at least may he 
determined within a year, is the removal of Felix from the 
procuratorship of Judea, and the entrance of Festus upon 
that office. On the departure of Felix, the Jewish inhabit¬ 
ants of Caesarea sent a deputation to Rome to accuse him to 
the emperor; but Josephus informs us that he was screened 
by the court influence of his brother Pallas (Ant. xx. 8. 9). 
The deputation, then, must have arrived at Rome before 
the year 62; for in that year, according to Tacitus, Pallas 
was put to death by Nero (Ann. xiv. 65). According to 
Josephus, Burrus was also alive when the accusers of Felix 
were at Rome ; but he died in March 62. Hence the recall of 
Felix must have occurred before a.d. 62. Again, Josephus 
states that, shortly after the entrance of Festus upon office, 
the Jews sent a deputation to Rome about a matter of dis¬ 
pute between them and that governor; and that the decision 
was given in their favour in order to gratify Poppaea, the 
wife of Nero (Ant. xx. 8. 11). Now this could not have 
happened earlier than the year 62, for according to Tacitus 
it was not until that year that Poppaea became Nero’s wife 
(Ann. xiv. 60) ; and allowing some time for the dispute 
to arise, and the deputation to be sent, Festus could hardly 
have been earlier in office than the year 60. From these 
data it has been inferred by the ablest chronologists, that 
Felix was removed from office and Festus succeeded in 
a.d. 60. 

A multitude of attempts have been made to give an exact 
chronology of the Acts. The ablest work on this subject is 
Wieseler’s Chronologie des Apostolischen Zeitalters. Lists 
have been given by Meyer, Wieseler, Olsliausen, and David¬ 
son, of upwards of thirty chronological tables, not one of 
which agrees with another. 

We give, for the sake of reference, a table containing a 
list of the Roman emperors and of the governors of Judea, 
along with the chief events mentioned in the Acts, chronicled 
under the years in which these events most probably occurred, 
similar to the tables given by Alford, Wordsworth, and 
Conybeare and Howson. 




Jewish Governors. 

Principal Events in the Acts. 

33. Tiberius. 




37. Caligula. 




41. Claudius. 













54. Nero. 





Pontius Pilate. 



Herod Agrippa i. 

Cuspius Fadus. 
Tiberius Alexander. 




Ventidius Cummanus. •{ 


The ascension? miracle of Pen¬ 
tecost—Acts i. ii. 

During these years, the events 
recorded in Acts iii.-vi. 7 
probably occurred. 

Martyrdom of Stephen ; evan¬ 
gelistic labours in Samaria— 
Acts vi. 8-viii. 

Conversion of Paul ?—Acts ix. 

Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem ; 
he retires to Tarsus—Acts ix. 

The missionary labours of Peter; 
conversion of Cornelius; the 
church at Antioch ; Paul at 
Antioch—Acts ix. 32-xi. 

Death of Herod; Paul’s second 
visit to Jerusalem—Acts xii. 

Paul’s first missionary journey 
—Acts xiii. xiv. 

During these years, Paul ap¬ 
pears to have been at An¬ 
tioch, where he abode long 
time with the disciples—Acts 
xiv. 28. 

Council of Jerusalem ; Paul’s 
third visit. Commencement 
of his second missionary jour¬ 
ney—Acts xv.-xvi. 5. 

Paul in Macedonia and Achaia 
—Acts xvi. 6-xviii. 1. 

Paul at Corinth—Acts xviii. 

Paul’s fourth visit to Jerusalem. 
Paul’s third missionary jour¬ 
ney, commencing at Pente¬ 
cost 54; he resides in Ephesus 
for nearly three years—Acts 
xviii. 18-xix. 20. 

Paul leaves Ephesus at Pente¬ 
cost, and winters in Corinth 
—Acts xix. 21-xx. 3. 

Paul’s journey to Jerusalem, 
which he reaches at Pente¬ 
cost ; his arrest and imprison¬ 
ment—Acts xx. 4-xxiv. 26. 




Jewish Governors. 

Principal Events in the Acts. 

59. Nero. 



Felix. -< 





Paul a prisoner in Caesarea— 
Acts xxiv. 26, 27. 

Paul’s defence before Agrippa; 
in the autumn he sails for 

Rome, and winters at Malta 
—Acts xxv.-xxviii. 10. 
Paul’s arrival at Rome in the 


spring—Acts xxviii. 11-29. 


Albinus. | 



Paul a prisoner at Rome—Acts 
xxviii. 30. 

Close of Paul’s two years’ im- 


prisonment—Acts xxviii. 30, 

List of Works , with their Editions , cited in this Commentary. 

Akerman’s Numismatic Illustrations of the New Testament. London 

Alexander on the Acts of the Apostles. London : Nisbet and Co. 1857. 
Alford’s Greek Testament, vol. ii. Third edition, 1857. 

Baumgarten’s Apostolic History. Clark’s translation. I 860 . 

Baur’s Apostel Paulus. Zweite Auflage. Leipzig 1866. 

Bengelii Gnomon Novi Testamenti. Editio tertia. Tubingae 1850. 
Biscoe on the Acts of the Apostles. Oxford 1829. 

Calvin’s Commentary on the Acts. Calvin Translation Society. 
Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Acts. 

Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul. New edition, 1862. 

Cook on the Acts of the Apostles. Second edition. London 1866. 
Davidson’s Introduction to the New Testament. London : Bagster and 
Sons. 1849. 

Davidson’s Introduction to the History of the New Testament. London: 
Longmans. 1868. 1 

De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte. Dritte Auflage, 1848. 

Doddridge’s Family Expositor. London 1840. 

Du Veil on the Acts of the Apostles. London 1851. 

Eadie’s Bible Encyclopaedia. 

Eusebii Historia Ecclesiastica. 

Ewald’s Geschichte des Volkes Israel. Zweiter Ausgabe. Sechster 
Band, 1858. 

1 These works of Dr. Davidson are two entirely different books, and 
view the Acts from two different standpoints. In order to distinguish 
them in the references, the last published is called the “New Intro¬ 



Gieseler’s Church History. Clark’s translation. 1846. 

Griesbach’s Novum Testamentum Greecum. 

Hackett on the Acts. Boston 1863. 

Horne’s Introduction to the Scriptures. Ninth edition, 1846. 
Humphry’s Commentary on the Acts. Second edition. London 1854. 
Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities and Jewish War. 

Kitto’s Illustrated Commentary on the Bible. 


Kuincel’s Novi Testamenti Libri Historici, tom. iii. London 1835. 
Lange’s Apostolische Zeitalter. Braunschweig 1853. 

Lange’s Bibelwerk : Der Apostel Geschichten von Lechler. Dritte 
Auflage, 1869. 

Lardner’s Works. 5 vols. quarto. London 1815. 

Lekebusch’s Composition und Entsteliung der Apostelgeschichte. 1854. 
Lewin’s Life and Epistles of St. Paul. London 1851. 

Lightfoot’s Horse Hebraicse et Talmudicse. Oxford 1859. 

Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte. Dritte Auflage, 1861. 

Michaelis’ Introduction to the New Testament. By Bishop Marsh. 
Neander’s History of the Planting of Christianity. Bohn’s translation. 
Neander’s Church History. Bohn’s translation. 

Oertel’s Paulus in der Apostelgeschichte. Halle 1868. 

Olshausen on the Gospels and the Acts. Clark’s translation. 1856. 
Paley’s Horse Paulinse. 

Pearson’s (Bishop) Lectures on the Acts. Cambridge 1851. 

Renan’s Les Apotres. 

Renan’s Saint Paul. 

Robinson’s Lexicon of the New Testament. New edition. London 1858. 
Schaff’s History of the Apostolic Church. Edinburgh : Clark. 1854. 
Schwanbeck’s Quellen der Apostelgeschichte. Darmstadt 1847. 

Smith’s (Dr. William) Dictionary of the Bible. 

Smith’s (James) Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul. Second edition, 

Thiersch’s History of the Apostolic Church. Translated by Carlyle. 
Tischendorf’s Novum Testamentum Greece. Editio septima, 1859. 
Tischendorf’s Vetus Testamentum Greece. 1850. 

Whitby’s Commentary. 

Wieseler’s Chronologie des Apostolischen Zeitalters. Gottingen 1848. 
Winer’s Biblisches Realworterbuch. Zweite Auflage. 

Winer’s Grammar of the New Testament. Translated by Masson. Fourth 

Wordsworth’s Greek Testament: The Acts. Fifth edition. 

Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte. Stuttgart 1854. 





THE ASCENSION— Acts i. 1-12. 

1 The first treatise I made, 0 Theopliilus, concerning all things 
which Jesus began both to do and to teach, 2 Until the day on which 
He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given 
commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen : 3 To whom also 

He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, 
being seen by them during forty days, and speaking of the things con¬ 
cerning the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together, He 

commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the pro¬ 
mise of the Father, which ye heard from me. 5 Because John baptized 
with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not long after 
these days. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked 
Him, saying, Lord, restorest Thou at this time the kingdom to Israel ? 
7 But He said to them, It pertains not to you to know the times or 
the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power. 8 But ye 
shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you : and 
ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in 
Samaria, and to the end of the earth. 9 And when He had spoken 
these things, while they beheld, He was lifted up ; and a cloud received 
Him from their sight. 10 And, while they were gazing up to heaven, 
as He went away, behold, two men stood by them in white garments ; 
11 Who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking up to 
heaven ? this Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, shall come 
in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. 12 Then they 
returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from 
Jerusalem a Sabbath-day’s journey. 





Ver. 8. Mov , found in A, B, C, D, N, is much better attested 
than pot, found in E. Ver. 10. The plural eaOgaeaiv \ev- 
Acat?, found in A, B, C, N, is preferred by Lachmann and 
Tischendorf to the singular eaOrjn \evrcj /, found in D, E. 


Ver. 1. Tov fJLGV nrpwrov \6<yov — The first treatise. There 
is no necessity for supposing that irpwrov is here used for 
Trporepov , the former. This “ first treatise ” is beyond ques¬ 
tion the third Gospel. Mev is here used without the corre¬ 
sponding Se, the sentence being incomplete : some such clause 
as “ this second treatise I now compose ” requires to be added. 

©eocjnXe — 0 Theophilus. It is evident from Luke’s 
Gospel that Theophilus was a convert to Christianity (Luke 
i. 4) ; and it is also probable that he was a man of rank, as 
the epithet Kpanare, most noble , is there prefixed to his 
name,—an epithet which generally refers not to character, 
but to station; being the same which is given by Claudius 
Lysias and Tertullus to Felix, and by Paul to Festus. Some 
of the Fathers, as Origen, Ambrose, and Epiphanius, suppose 
that the word is not a proper name, but an appellative de¬ 
noting a u lover of God,” and applicable to every Christian 
reader; but its occurrence in two purely historical works, 
and the epithet KpaTLcrre, refute this opinion. Theodore 
Hase supposes that Theophilus is the same as Theophilus 
the son of Annas, who was for some years the high priest 
(Joseph. Ant. xviii. 5. 3 and xix. 6. 2), and that the third 
Gospel and the Acts were apologies for Christianity ; an 
opinion which Michaelis is inclined to support, 1 but w T hicli 
is at variance with the dedication of the Gospel, which inti¬ 
mates that Theophilus was a Christian. The most extra¬ 
ordinary opinion is that advanced by Jacob Hase, that 
Theophilus was none other than the distinguished Jewish 
philosopher Philo. 

Tlepl 7rdvTQ)v — concerning all. Luke here asserts the 
1 See Marsh’s Micliaelis , vol. iv. p. 239, second edition. 



completeness of his Gospel; but the words must not be 
pressed too far, as many important events of the life of 
Christ, recorded by the other evangelists, are omitted by 
Luke; and because, as St. John tells us, it would be im¬ 
possible to write all that Jesus did (John xxi. 25). 

*f2v ijp^aro 6 'Iycrovs rroieiv re /cal hthda/ceiv—which Jesus 
began both to do and to teach. Different meanings have been 
attached to the word gp^aro. Some, as Kuinoel, suppose it 
to be pleonastic, and the clause to be equivalent to eirobrjae 
re /cal eSlSatfe 1 —which Jesus did and taught; but this is a 
mere arbitrary and unnecessary conjecture. Others, as 
Winer, suppose it to be elliptical, and would read the 
sentence thus : which Jesus began and continued to do and 
teach , until the day that He teas taken up ; 2 which certainly 
gives a good sense. Lightfoot explains it thus : u In the 
former treatise I discoursed of all those things which Jesus 
Himself began to do and teach ; in this I am to give a 
relation of those things which were continued by the apostles 
after Him.” 3 Alford supposes the meaning to be that the 
Gospel contained the the outset of the doings and 

teachings of Jesus, as distinguished from this second treatise, 
which was to relate their sequels and results. And some¬ 
what similar to this is the opinion of Olshausen and Words¬ 
worth, adopted and defended at great length by Baumgarten, 
that the Gospel contains the beginning, and the Acts of the 
Apostles the continuation, of the doings and teachings of 
Jesus ; 4 an opinion which indeed contains a great truth, 
and is most suggestive, but which, if intended, would have 
been otherwise indicated than merely by the indefinite word 
rjp^aro. 5 The simplest meaning seems to be : of all that 
Jesus from the beginning did and taught , until the day that He 
was taken up. 6 

1 Kuinoel’s Libri Historici , vol. iii. p. 3. 

2 Winer’s Grammar of the New Testament , p. 643, Clark’s translation. 

3 Lightfoot’s Horse Hebraicse , vol. iv. p. 6. 

4 Baumgarten’s Apostolic History , vol. i. p. 9. 

5 See Introduction, pp. 27-29. 

6 The translation adopted by De Wette. 



Ver. 2. "A^pi rj ? rjyepa 5 — dveXypifyOr)—until the day when 
He was taken up. The ascension is the boundary between 
the Gospel and the Acts. The Gospel ends, and the Acts 
commences, with an account of it: in the former, the 
ascension is the termination of the earthly life of Jesus; in 
the latter, it is the commencement of His heavenly life. 

Aid Hvevyaros dylov—through the Holy Ghost. There is 
a diversity in the reading and punctuation of these words: 
they admit of a threefold construction. 1. Some connect 
them with dvekyy^Qy — He teas taken up hy the Holy Ghost; 
a reading which has few supporters. 2. Others (Lardner, 
Michaelis, Kuinoel, Olshausen, De Wette) connect them with 
ovs i^eXe^aro—the apostles whom He had chosen hy the Holy 
Ghost. 3. And others (Lechler, Meyer, Alford, Words¬ 
worth) connect them, as in our English version, with evrei- 
Xayevos—having given commandments hy the Holy Ghost; 
and this seems to be the most simple and appropriate con¬ 
struction. This construction, however, is itself capable of 
various meanings. Some (Bengel) render it, that Jesus 
gave these commandments by the communication of the 
Holy Ghost; not orally, but by inspiration. Others (Dr. 
Burton), that a He told His apostles that His commands 
would be more fully made known to them by the Holy 
Ghost.” But the obvious meaning is, that Jesus by word 
of mouth, anointed as He was by the Holy Ghost, gave 
commandments to the apostles. 

Ver. 3. ’ Ev 7 roWois retcyr)pirns—hy many infallible proofs. 
The word renyrjpiov is used to denote the strongest of all 
proofs— sure tokens. It is employed by Aristotle to signify 
demonstrative evidence. Beza renders it certissimis signis; 
and our English translation, infallible proofs , does not too 
strongly express its meaning. These infallible proofs of His 
resurrection Christ gave to His disciples. He appeared to 
them frequently: at least nine different appearances are 
recorded by the evangelists:—1. His appearance to Mary 
Magdalene; 2. His appearance to the women on their way 
from the sepulchre; 3. His appearance to the disciples 
going to Emmaus; 4. His appearance to Peter; 5. His 



appearance to the apostles, Thomas being absent; 6. His 
appearance when Thomas was present; 7. His appearance 
at the Sea of Tiberias; 8. His appearance at a mountain in 
Galilee; and 9. His last interview with His disciples at Jeru¬ 
salem. And at these appearances He gave His disciples ample 
opportunity of testing the reality of His resurrection, by 
speaking to them, eating and walking with them, and allowing 
Thomas to touch the print of the nails, and to thrust his hand 
into His side. He gave them sure tokens (rerc^gpLa) that 
the same body which was crucified was raised from the dead. 

’ OrTTavofievos avrols — being seen by them. Baumgarten 
supposes that this implies that Christ rose from the dead 
with a glorified body; that His body after the resurrection 
was spiritual, different from that body of flesh and blood 
which He possessed before His passion. u The word oirravo- 
fjievos” he observes, u signifies that, in order to converse 
with His disciples during these forty days, He quitted the 
invisible world on each occasion.” 1 But this is putting a 
meaning into the word which it does not bear: it merely 
signifies that Jesus appeared to His disciples, perhaps sud¬ 
denly, but it determines nothing as to the nature of His 
body. There is, it must be admitted, a certain degree of 
mystery connected with Christ’s raised body. After His 
resurrection He did not live among His disciples, but only 
appeared to them occasionally, and that often suddenly and 
unexpectedly, and vanished from their sight as suddenly as 
He came. But still the idea that His body was entirely 
spiritual does not accord with His eating and drinking with 
His disciples. Chrysostom remarks on these words: u He 
was not always with them now, as He was before the 
resurrection; for Luke does not say that He was seen by 
them forty days, but during forty days.”“ 

At rjfiepwv reacrapdfcovTa — during forty days. This is the 
only place where the interval between the resurrection and 
the ascension is given. It has been asserted that there is 
here a discrepancy between the Acts and the narrative of the 

1 Baumgarten’s Apostolical History , vol. i. p. 9. 

2 Chrysostom on the Acts , Horn. i. 



resurrection given in Luke’s Gospel. It has been affirmed 
that, according to the Gospel, the resurrection and the ascension 
took place on the same day. 1 Meyer thinks that this diversity 
supposes that a considerable interval occurred between the 
composition of the Gospel and of the Acts, during which the 
tradition of forty days was developed. 2 But the discrepancy 
is only in the minds of these writers. Luke, in the Gospel, 
gives no determinations of time, and it is highly improbable 
that all which he relates as occurring after the resurrection 
could be compressed within the limits of a single day. 

BaatXeLas rod ©eov — the kingdom of God. That is, the 
Messianic kingdom; the kingdom which Jesus Christ came 
to establish in the world; that kingdom which “ is not meat 
and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy 
Ghost” (Rom. xiv. 17) : in other words, the dispensation of 
the gospel. 

Ver. 4. — being assembled together. The 

margin of our Bible reads, eating together icith them; and so the 
word was understood by Chrysostom, Jerome, Theophylact, 
among the Fathers, and by Meyer among modern critics. 
But this arises from mistaking the etymology of the word ; 
as it is not derived from salty but from d\la, an assembly , 
or perhaps rather from d\rj s', collected together. Others, 
again, suppose it to belong to the middle voice, and render it 
assembling them—calling together the apostles; but there is no 
example of the word being so used. The correct meaning, 
then, is, being assembled together , the verb being in the passive. 
Olshausen and others' suppose that the meeting here men¬ 
tioned in the fourth verse is different from the one after¬ 
wards mentioned in the sixth verse, and took place some 
days before the ascension. 3 Lightfoot supposes that this 
meeting took place in Galilee, and was the meeting of Jesus 
with His disciples in the mountain of Galilee^ according 
to the appointment He had made. But the reasons given 

1 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 77. Davidson’s New Introduction, vol. 
ii. p. 196. Renan’s Les Apotres. 

2 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 27. 

3 Olshausen on the Gospels and Acts , vol. iv. p. 230. 



for this distinction of the meetings are insufficient: the nar¬ 
rative is continuous throughout; and the particle ovv in the 
sixth verse seems to connect the meeting there mentioned 
with the fourth verse. Accordingly this meeting took place 
on the day of the ascension ; and the place of meeting was 
either Mount Olivet or Jerusalem, from which we read, 
“ Jesus led them out as far as Bethany” (Luke xxiv. 50). 
No doubt this meeting was by the appointment of Christ; 
for we cannot suppose that otherwise the apostles would 
have left Galilee, to which they had betaken themselves, and 
where Christ had appeared to them so long before the feast 
of Pentecost, unless they had been directed to do so by their 

Uaprj^eiXev avrois —He commanded them. The persons 
assembled with Christ were the apostles, the same as those 
to whom He showed Himself alive after His passion. 
Whether they only were present, or whether there were other 
disciples with them, is undetermined : the narrative would 
seem to suggest that the former opinion is the more probable. 

Trjv eirapyeXlav rod Harpos — the promise of the Father. 
The promise here referred to was the bestowal of the Holy 
Spirit, and especially the miraculous gifts which w T ere con¬ 
ferred on the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The apostles 
had already obtained the influences of the Spirit, but by no 
means in so copious a measure as they were to receive them 
after the ascension of their Lord. “The Holy Ghost,” we 
are expressly informed, “ was not yet given, because Jesus 
was not yet glorified” (John vii. 39). Now that the Messiah 
promised to the fathers has appeared, the gift of the Spirit 
is peculiarly the promise, the coming of which we are to 
expect. Here, and in Luke’s Gospel (ch. xxiv. 49), this gift 
is called “the promise of the Father,” because it was re¬ 
peatedly and expressly promised by God under the Old Tes¬ 
tament dispensation (Joel ii. 28, etc.). Our Lord also here 
reminds the apostles that He Himself had often made the 
same promise —which ye have heard of me; the allusion being 
not to the promise recorded in Luke’s Gospel (Luke xxiv. 49), 
as there also the last interview of Jesus with His disciples is 



probably related, but rather to the promises made by our 
Lord in His last discourses before He suffered, as recorded 
in John’s Gospel (John xiii.-xvi.). 

Ver. 5. 'Otl ’Icoavves fiev eftaTmaev v^art—because John 
baptized with water , but ye shall be baptized with the Holy 
Ghost. There appears here to be a reference to the testi¬ 
mony of the Baptist himself: C{ I indeed baptize you with 
water; but One mightier than I cometh: He shall baptize 
you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Luke iii. 16). 
This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when 
cloven tongues like as of fire sat upon each of the disciples, 
and when they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. This 
was, as Calvin happily expresses it, the common baptism of 
the church; for it was for the use of the church that the 
gifts of the Spirit were so largely conferred on the disciples. 

Ov fierd vroXXa? ravras ygepas—not long after these days; 
or, as we would express it, after a few days. The period 
which intervened between the ascension and Pentecost, when 
this promise was fulfilled, and the apostles were baptized with 
the Holy Ghost, was only ten days. 

Ver. 6. Kvpie, el iv rd> xporp —T aparjk — Lord , restorest 
Thou at this time the kingdom to Israel ? This question of 
the apostles was suggested by the conversations which Jesus 
had with them concerning the kingdom of God, and by the 
promise which He made them of a speedy advent of the Holy 
Ghost. They inquired whether Jesus was now about to estab¬ 
lish His Messianic kingdom over Israel. Lightfoot supposes 
that the question was one of astonishment: u Lord, wilt 
Thou restore the kingdom to those who have dealt so basely 
and perfidiously with Thee?” 1 But the words are obviously 
the language of desire and hope. Meyer, we think correctly, 
refers the time of the restoration inquired after to the ov pueTa 
7 roXXa? Tavras rgiepa ?. 2 The apostles connected the out¬ 
pouring of the Spirit with the establishment of the Messianic 
kingdom; and therefore, when our Lord promised that after 
a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Ghost, 

1 Lightfoot’s Horse, Hebraic vol. iv. p. 10. 

2 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , pp. 29, 30. 



they regarded this as an indirect indication that He would 
then, iv ru> XP° V( P T0 ^ T< ? ) j restore the kingdom to Israel. 

It is, however, not very clear what ideas the apostles 
attached to the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. No 
doubt they shared in the erroneous notions of the Jews in 
general concerning a temporal Messiah. They still clung to 
the idea that the Messiah would restore to Israel the palmy 
days of David and Solomon ; that He would rescue Judea 
from the Roman yoke, and establish His throne in Jeru¬ 
salem. These views had indeed received a terrible shock by 
the crucifixion of their Master; but His resurrection, and 
His renewal of the promise of the Spirit, had inspired them 
with new hopes. Still, however, we cannot suppose that the 
apostles, after being so long associated with Christ, would 
entertain wholly carnal views concerning the Messianic king¬ 
dom. They probably imagined that the world would be 
gradually converted to Judaism, and that Jerusalem, the 
holy city, would be the resort of all nations : most evidently 
they had not the slightest conception of any other way by 
which the Gentiles could be admitted into the kingdom of 
God, except by embracing the Jewish religion. It was not 
until many years after this that they realized the great truth, 
that God was the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews, 
and that all were freely invited into the Messianic kingdom. 

Yer. 7. Our Lord, in His answer, represses the curiosity 
of the apostles, their impatience, and perhaps also the narrow 
spirit with which they restricted the kingdom to Israel. The 
apostles had asked Him concerning the time, and our Lord’s 
answer is confined to this point. He tells them not to be too 
curious regarding the future, but to refer times and seasons ' 
to Him who has reserved them in His own power. But it is 
to be observed that He neither denies nor affirms the fact of 
the kingdom. He does not correct the misconceptions which 
He well knew the apostles entertained, knowing that the 
Holy Spirit, who was shortly to be given, would impart to 
them clear views of the spiritual nature of His kingdom, 
and would guide them into all truth. The course of events, 
also, would soon correct their erroneous notions. Xpovovs 



rj Kcupovs—the times or the seasons. These words are not to 
be regarded as equivalent terms. Xpovos is time absolutely, 
without regard to circumstances ; icaipos is a definite deter¬ 
mined period. Kaipos, observes Meyer, u signifies a definite 
limited space of time, with the idea of fitness.” Time, in 
both these points of view, both absolute and relative, is by 
the Father retained in His own power. 

Ver. 8 . Avvapuv €7re\06vTo<; rov a<y[ov Ilvevpharos i<f> 
vpias—power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. 
The margin of our Bible reads, the power of the Holy Ghost 
coming upon you; but the other rendering, with the con¬ 
struction of the genitive absolute, is to be preferred. 

Kal eaeaOe pov pdprvpes—And ye shall he my witnesses , 
both in Jerusalem , and in all Judea , and in Samaria , and to 
the end of the earth. In these words the office and mission 
of the apostles are declared. Their office is that of witness ^ 
u they were not to be prophets of the future, but witnesses 
of the past.” Their mission was to witness for Christ in 
Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. 
We see here the actual course which the gospel took : first 
it was preached in Jerusalem ; and after the dispersion, by 
reason of the persecution which followed the martyrdom of 
Stephen, in Judea and Samaria, and afterwards by Peter to 
Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, and by Paul in Asia 
and Europe. By ia^drov rfi? 777 ? is not to be understood 
the limits of the Holy Land, but the end of the earth. This 
mission was not, in its completeness, executed by the apostles : 
it continues to be the mission of the church, until the whole 
world shall be converted, and do homage to Christ as its 
Lord and King. 

Ver. 9. cTrypOy — He was lifted up. Luke informs us, in 
his Gospel, that the ascension occurred when Jesus was in 
the act of blessing His disciples : u And it came to pass, 
while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and car¬ 
ried up to heaven” (Luke xxiv. 51). When, however, we 
speak of the ascension of Christ, it must be understood only 
of His human nature; for as God He is everywhere present. 
His ascension did not consist in any local removal of His 



divine nature, but in the exaltation of His humanity. He 
entered heaven as Mediator between God and man, and 
as such was exalted far above all principality and power. 
u While,” as Baumgarten beautifully expresses it, u the 
ascension of Elijah may be compared to the flight of a bird, 
which none can follow; the ascension of Christ is as it were^ 
a bridge between heaven and earth, laid down for all who 
are drawn to Him by His earthly existence.” 1 

Kal vecpeXr)—and a cloud. This cloud was the visible t 
symbol of the presence of God. Chrysostom calls it the 
u royal chariot.” It was the Shekinah of the Jews, the 
bright cloud which is so frequently mentioned as appearing 
to the Israelites during their march through the desert, and 
which rested on the mercy-seat of the temple built by Solo¬ 
mon. This cloud is also mentioned in the narrative of the 
transfiguration: u A bright cloud overshadowed them; and 
behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved 
Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. xvii. 5). 

It has been objected to the reality of the ascension, that 
it is only mentioned by two out of the four evangelists, Mark 
and Luke, and these were neither apostles nor eye-witnesses 
of the fact which they relate. Matthew and John, who are 
represented as present, are silent on the subject. And it has 
been further urged that this event is not dwelt upon by any 
of the other writers of the New Testament. Now it must be 
confessed that this comparative silence of the sacred writers, 
concerning an incident of such importance in the life of our 
Lord, does at first indeed appear strange; but let us inquire 
into its extent, and the reasons for it. 

It is a mistake to suppose that the ascension is only men¬ 
tioned by Mark and Luke: it is clearly implied by the two J 
other evangelists. Thus, in St. Matthew’s Gospel, our Lord 
is represented as saying, u Hereafter shall ye see the Son of 
man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the 
clouds of heaven” (Matt. xxvi. 64). And St. John tells us 
that our Lord told His disciples in general, that u the Son of 
man would ascend up where He was before” (John vi. 62) ; 

1 Baumgarten’s Apostolical History , vol. i. p. 21. 

VOL. I. 




and that, after His resurrection, He said to Mary Magdalene, 
u Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto 
my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your 
God” (John xx. 17). Nor are the other sacred writers 
entirely silent about the ascension. St. Paul expressly says 
that Christ u was received up into glory” (1 Tim. iii. 16) ; 
and St. Peter declares that Christ “is gone into heaven, 
and is on the right hand of God” (1 Pet. iii. 22) ; and 
yet even more distinctly, in his first address to the Jews, 
when contrasting David with Christ, he says, “For David is 
not ascended into the heavens” (Acts ii. 34),—thus treating 
the ascension as a known fact (see also Acts i. 22). And 
the book of Revelation is full of proofs that Christ in His 
glorified humanity has entered into heaven. But besides 
these direct proofs, as Olshausen has well remarked, the 
ascension is necessarily presupposed in the idea of the resur¬ 
rection. Jesus having risen from the dead, no other mode 
of departure from this world is conceivable than an ascension 
into heaven. We cannot possibly imagine that He would 
die again; for if so, instead of overcoming death, Fie would 
in the end be overcome by it. Even although Luke had 
given us no account of the visible ascension of Christ in the 
presence of His apostles, yet Flis last interview with them, 
and His disappearance from them, must have been regarded 
by us as a removal to heaven. 

Still, however, although not as an argument against the 
ascension, the fact remains, that this great event is less fre¬ 
quently alluded to by the sacred writers than we might have 
expected. Can we assign a reason for this? We think, with 
Lange and Olshausen, that it is to be found in this, that 
the ascension was not regarded by the sacred writers as a dis¬ 
tinct and separate event, but as part of the resurrection and 
glory of the Redeemer. The resurrection was the essential 
point—the triumph of the Redeemer over death, the com¬ 
pletion of salvation, the public manifestation of His divine 
Sonship, the commencement of His heavenly life. The 
ascension was a part of that glory which followed ; so much 
so, indeed, that all those passages which refer to Christ’s 



exaltation, virtually include His ascension. For this reason 
both the sacred writers and the early Church gave far greater 
prominence to the resurrection than to the ascension. u Every¬ 
thing of importance,” observes Olshausen, u in a doctrinal 
point of view was concentrated in the resurrection : with it 
closed the earthly being of Christ. The ascension, and also 
the outpouring of the Spirit, which was connected with the 
ascension, and dependent upon it, are only the results of the 
resurrection, viewed as the glorification of the body, and the 
consequences of the victory over death.” 1 

Ver. 10. Whilst the apostles stood gazing up to heaven, 
and fixed in mute astonishment, their attention was drawn 
by the sudden appearance of two men in white garments. 
These were doubtless angels in the form of men; the white 
garments being the emblem of heavenly purity. As angels 
proclaimed His birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem, and 
announced His resurrection to the women at the sepulchre; 
so they now appear to the apostles at His ascension, and 
predict His second advent. 

Ver. 11. Oi /cal ehrav — Who also said , Ye men of Galilee , 
why stand ye gazing up to heaven ? The apostles are here 
gently reprimanded for spending their time in idle contem¬ 
plation ; wdiilst their mission was actively to be engaged as 
witnesses for Christ, and patiently to await His second 

Outo? 6 ’ Irurovs — ovpavov. Whilst the angels reprove the 
apostles for their inactive contemplation, they also comfort 
them with the prospect of Christ’s second coming. He will 
come again as He went to heaven, with similar glory, and in 
similar circumstances. As He ascended in a visible manner, 
so, when He appears the second time, every eye shall see 
Him. As a cloud received Him out of the sight of His 
apostles, so shall He come again in the clouds of heaven. 
And as angels accompanied Him on His ascension to heaven, 
so shall they attend Him at His second coming. 

Ver. 12. ’’Airb opovs rod /caXovyevov 'KXaiwvos — from the 

1 See Olshausen on the Gospels and Acts , vol. iv. pp. 234-238; also 
Lange’s Life of Christ, vol. v. pp. 134-140. 



mount called Olivet. This mount was so called from the 
number of olive trees which grew upon it. Its highest 
point, the so-called “Mount of the Ascension,” is about 2700 
feet above the level of the sea, being, however, only 200 feet 
above Mount Zion, and 300 feet above the temple. It lies 
to the east of Jerusalem, being between it and the Dead 
Sea. At its foot, on the western side, is situated the garden 
of Gethsemane; and Bethany lies on the other side, being 
two miles distant from Jerusalem. The highest point is in 
the centre, and is, according to tradition, the spot where 
Christ ascended. It was here that the Empress Helena 
erected her church as a memorial of that event. 

The tradition which fixes upon “ the Mount of the Ascen¬ 
sion ” as the true spot is probably erroneous. In the Acts 
we are indeed informed that the apostles returned from the 
mount called Olivet; but St. Luke in his Gospel tells us 
that “ Jesus led them out as far as Bethany ” (Luke xxiv. 
50). Nor is there any discrepancy in these accounts, as 
Bethany lay near the foot of the Mount of Olives, on its 
eastern slope, away from Jerusalem. This being the case, 
it would follow that the ascension did not take place from the 
summit of Mount Olivet, the so-called “ Mount of the Ascen¬ 
sion,” but at least a mile distant from it, in the neighbour¬ 
hood of Bethany. 1 Still it was on the same mount where He 
endured His great agony. “ The same place, therefore,” as 
Olshausen remarks, “ where the deepest humiliation of our 
Lord occurred, viz. in the conflict of Gethsemane, witnessed 
also His sublimest elevation.” 

2a/3{3aTov 6£>bv—a Sabbatli-day s journey. This, accord¬ 
ing to the traditions of the Jews, was two thousand cubits, 
or about three-quarters of a mile. It was the supposed 
distance between the camp and the tabernacle in the wilder¬ 
ness (Josh. iii. 4). The law of Moses gave no directions 
about this matter; but the regulation was not considered the 
less binding, nor was the violation of it the less punishable, 
on that account. This is one of those examples in which the 

1 Others suppose that by Bethany is meant not the village, but the 
district of Bethany. See Wordsworth’s Commentary. 



traditions of the elders were as carefully observed as the 
commands of the law. Hence our Saviour, in His predic¬ 
tion of the destruction of Jerusalem, tells His disciples to 
pray that their flight might not be on the Sabbath-day (Matt, 
xxiv. 20), when probably they would have been prevented. 
But what distance is here mentioned? Bethany, the place 
to which our Lord led His disciples, is, we are informed in 
St. John’s Gospel, fifteen furlongs from Jerusalem (John 
xi. 18). The Mount of Olives, on the other hand, is said by 
Josephus in one place to be five furlongs distant (Ant. xx. 8. 
6 ), and in another place to be six furlongs (Bell. Jud. v. 2, 3). 
From this, then, it would seem that not the distance of the 
precise spot where the ascension took place, but of the Mount 
of Olives, on which it happened, is intended by the sacred 
historian. 1 

1 See Hackett on the Acts , p. 41; Smith’s Dictionary —Mount of 
Olives; Meyer’s Apostelyeschichte , p. 32. 



13 And when they came in, they went up into the upper room, 
where abode both Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip, 
and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James of Alphseus, and 
Simon the Zealot, and Judas of James. 14 These all continued with 
one accord in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, 
and with His brethren. 15 And in those days, Peter, rising up in the 
midst of the brethren, said (the number of the names together was 
about an hundred and twenty), 16 Men and brethren, it was neces¬ 
sary that this scripture should be fulfilled which the Holy Ghost fore¬ 
told by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was guide to those 
who took Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us, and received the 
office of this ministry. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the 
wages of iniquity ; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, 
and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known to all the inha¬ 
bitants of Jerusalem ; so that that field was called in their own dialect, 
Akeldama, that is, The field of blood. 20 For it is written in the book 
of Psalms, “ Let his habitation be desolate, and let there be no dweller 
therein and, “ His office let another take.” 21 Therefore it is neces¬ 
sary that, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the 
Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism 
of John, unto the day when He was taken up from us, one should be¬ 
come a witness with us of His resurrection. 23 And they appointed 
two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 
24 And having prayed, they said, Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts 
of all, show whom of these two Thou hast chosen, 25 To take the place 
of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas turned aside, that he 
might go to his own place. 26 And they cast lots for them ; and the 
lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. 


Yer. 14. Kal rf) Seycrei is wanting in all the uncial 
mss., and is rejected by Griesbach, Tischendorf, Laclnnann, 




Meyer, and De Wette. Yer. 15. A, B, C, X, have aBe\(j)wv, 
the reading adopted by Tischendorf and Lachmann, instead 
of ixaOrjTwv, contained in D, E. Yer. 25. \a(3elv rov tottov , 
found in A, B, 0, D, is much better attested than \a/3eov top 
/ cXrjpov , found in K. Yer. 26. Instead of avrcov, A, B, C, K 
read avTois, the reading adopted by Tischendorf. 


Yer. 13. Kal ore elorrfkOov—and when they came in, namely 
into the city. 'Eis to vireppov—into the upper room. Some 
(Lightfoot, Du Yeii, Hammond) suppose that this upper 
room was one of the chambers attached to the temple; but 
it is in the highest degree improbable that the Jewish hier¬ 
archy, who had the charge of these rooms, would permit the 
disciples of Jesus to assemble in one of them for worship. 
We are then to understand the upper room of some private 
house which the apostles had hired, or whose possessor was 
a disciple. Epiphanius tells us that it was on Mount Zion, 
and that a Christian church was afterwards erected on the 
spot where it stood. It is to be observed that this upper 
room is particularized by the definite article —the upper room , 
some well-known upper room; perhaps, as Ewald suggests, 
the large upper room in which our Lord partook of the pass- 
over with His apostles (Luke xxii. 12), or the room where He 
appeared to them after His resurrection (John xx. 19, 26). 
Upper rooms, directly under the flat roof, were in the East 
large and spacious, and were often set apart as halls for 
meetings. Thus it was in an upper room that Paul delivered 
his farewell address to the disciples at Troas (Acts xx.. 8). 

Ov rjaav Karap.evovre?—where abode. This is not at 
variance with the statement in Luke’s Gospel, that after the 
ascension the disciples were continually in the temple, prais¬ 
ing and blessing God (Luke xxiv. 53) : for that statement 
merely implies that, as devout Israelites, they were to be 
found in the temple at the stated hours of prayer; whereas 
here we are informed that at other times they assembled in 
this upper room for prayer and religious fellowship. 



r, 0 re Ilerpo 9 — both Peter. This is the fourth catalogue 
which we have of the apostles. The other catalogues are 
Matt. x. 2-4, Mark iii. 16-19, and Luke vi. 14-16. They 
all vary in the order in which the names are given, and 
several of the apostles are mentioned under different names. 
Peter, John, James, and Andrew are in all the catalogues, 
though not in the same order, placed first. Philip is said to 
be of Bethsaida; and Thomas is surnamed Didvmus, or the 
twin (John xi. 16) ; Bartholomew is supposed to be identical 
with Nathanael of Cana (John i. 46, xxi. 2 ); Matthew is 
called the publican, and is identified with Levi (Luke v. 27), 
as the circumstances of his call and that of Matthew are the 
same (Matt. ix. 9). James is here, and in the other three 
catalogues, designated ’ A\(f>cUov , of Alphceus; the genitive 
being used to denote relationship, and signifying in general, 
the son of. Whether he is the same as James the Lord’s 
brother, the so-called bishop of Jerusalem, is a matter of 
dispute, and shall ‘afterwards be considered . 1 Simon, here 
surnamed 0 tlte zealot , is in St. Matthew’s Gospel 

called 6 Kammto?, 2 a word of similar import. Some 
suppose that this surname refers to his having previously 
belonged to the political sect of the Zealots, and others to his 
ardent disposition. The last name is Judas of James, which 
some render Judas the brother of James (Jude 1), and 
others Judas the son of {an unknown ) James , regarding him 
as a different person from Jude, the author of the epistle. 
He is in St. Matthew’s Gospel called u Lebbeeus, whose sur¬ 
name was Thaddgeus” (Matt. x. 3); Lebbseus signifying, 
according to Lightfoot, a native of Lebba, a maritime town 
of Galilee; and Thaddseus being, according to Dr. Words¬ 
worth, of similar derivation with Judas. 

Ver. 14. $vv <yvvailfiv — with the women. The women here 
mentioned are probably those devout women of Galilee who 
followed Christ in His missionary journeys, and accompanied 
Him on His last visit to Jerusalem, and who were present 
both at the cross and at the sepulchre. The Gospels men- 

1 See note to Acts xii. 17. 

2 The reading of B, C, D, adopted by Tischendorf, Matt. x. 4. 



tion by name Mary Magdalene; Mary the mother of James 
and Joses; Joanna the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward; 
Salome the mother of James and John; and a certain 
Susanna. Kal Map Lag, rfj gyrpl rov ’Iycrov — and Mary the 
mother of Jesus. Mary is here mentioned for the last time. 
Her subsequent history is involved in obscurity. Accord¬ 
ing to one tradition, she died in peace at Jerusalem; and 
according to another, she accompanied the Apostle John to 
Ephesus, where she died in extreme old age. Her assump¬ 
tion into heaven is a comparatively modern legend. Kal 
crvv rot? dSeXcfoois avrov — and ivith Sis brethren. We reserve 
consideration of the relationship of these brethren to Christ. 1 
There are two opinions. The one is, that the word brother 
is here used to signify near relatives, cousins; and that 
among these brethren are to be reckoned two of the apostles, 
James of Alphaeus, and Judas of James. The other opinion 
is, that they were the real brethren of Jesus, being either 
the sons of Joseph and Mary, or the sons of Joseph by a 
former marriage, who would be considered as His brethren; 
and that none of these brethren were apostles. This verse 
favours, though slightly, the latter view: the brethren of 
Jesus are here apparently mentioned as a distinct class from 
the apostles. / 

Ver. 15. Kal iv rat? ?//Ap<2t9 ravraLs — and in those days , 
that is, during the ten davs intervening between the ascension 

7 o ■/ O 

and Pentecost. ’Avaarac; Tlerpo 9 — Peter rising up. Peter 
here, as well as elsewhere in the early part of the Acts, takes 
precedence. It is evident that he possessed a certain degree 
of priority among the apostles. He was honoured by our 
Lord to be the first to preach the gospel, both to the Jews 

and to the Gentiles. St. Chrvsostom calls him u the mouth 


of the apostles, and the head of their choir.” 2 But, at the 
same time, this priority gave him no authority over them. 
He does not here, in virtue of his primacy, take upon himself 
the right to fill up the vacancy in the apostolic office, but 

1 See note to Acts xii. 17. 

2 Chrysostom’s Lectures on John , Homily 88, or 6pox tuu /xxOyitcjv xxl 
xopvtp'/} too ftopov. 



brings the matter before the brethren. And it is not the 
apostles only, but the whole assembly, who agree to the pro¬ 
posal of Peter, and set apart two as fit candidates for the 
apostolic office. 

"Hz/ T6 o^Xo?— the number of the names together was a 
hundred and twenty ; that is, the number of persons—the 
apostles, the women, the brethren of Jesus, and others—then v 
present in the upper room. There is here not the slightest 
discrepancy, as Baur and Zeller suppose, with the statement 
of Paul, that our Lord, after His resurrection, was seen of 
above five hundred brethren at once (1 Cor. xv. 6). 1 On the 
one hand, Paul does not mention where this appearance took 
place : most probably it was in Galilee, where the disciples 
would be more numerous than at Jerusalem. And, on the 
other hand, Luke does not here give the whole number of 
the disciples, but only the number present in the upperv 
room. It is probable that this was the whole number then 
in Jerusalem, and that the Galilean disciples had not yet 
come up to the feast of Pentecost. 

Ver. 16. L4z/£>pe? «8eX<£oz— Men and brethren , it was neces¬ 
sary that this scripture should be fulfilled , which the Holy 
Ghost foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas. The 
allusion here is to those two passages from the book of Psalms, 
afterwards mentioned in the twentieth verse. David is there 
regarded as the type of the Messiah, and the enemies of v 
David as the type of the enemies of the Messiah ; and thus 
all those calamities which David predicted or imprecated as 
befalling his enemies, were predictions of the calamities 
which should befall the enemies of the Messiah. David, it 
is probable, intended only his own enemies; perhaps there 
was no reference, or only an obscure reference, to the Messiah 
in his mind : for it is to be observed that it is not said that 
the scripture should be fulfilled which David foretold con-v 
cerning Judas, but which the Holy Ghost foretold. These 
prophecies are examples of what are termed secondary pro¬ 
phecies : primarily they refer to David and to the enemies 
of David; but in a secondary and higher sense they re-* 

1 Zeller’s Apostelgeschiclite , p. 117. 



ceive their full accomplishment in the Messiah and His 

Ver. 17. r 'On KarrjpiOfirifjievo^ rjv—for this man was num¬ 
bered among us, and received the office of this ministry. 
Literally, the lot (rov Kkypov) of this ministry. This'word, 
however, was used metaphorically to signify the office allotted ^ 
to a person. St. Peter does not mention the apostleship of 
Judas in order to aggravate his crime, that he sinned not¬ 
withstanding his great privileges, but with a view to the 
prediction mentioned in ver. 20: “His office (rrjv Imaico'Krjv) 
let another take.” 

Yers. 18, 19. These two verses are by many (Calvin, 
Kuinoel, Olshausen, Hackett, Humphry) supposed to be not 
a part of the address of Peter, but an explanatory clause 
inserted by Luke. It is argued that it was superfluous in 
Peter to relate the death of Judas, as this fact must already 
have been well known to the disciples; and that the translation 
of the word dfce\8ayd% would not occur in an address spoken 
in Aramaic, whereas it was appropriate in a history addressed 
to Gentile readers. But Peter does not mention the fate 
of Judas in order to give information to the disciples, but 
to show that it was the fulfilment of prophecy. Besides, the 
connective particles yev ovv in ver. 18 forbid us to suppose 
this clause to be an insertion. And the rhetorical style is 
that of an address, not of a narrative. Hence we conclude 
that these verses are part of the address of Peter, and that 
the only words inserted by Luke are tj) 18la biaXe/crco 
avrcov , and the translation of the Aramaic word Akeldama, 
tout earns ywpiov aiyaros. 

The account here given of the death of Judas is apparently 
at variance with the account of the same event given by 
Matthew (Matt, xxvii. 3-8). There are three points of 
difference. 1. We are here informed that Judas purchased 
a field with the wafres of his crime ; whereas Matthew in- 
forms us that the chief priests and elders purchased the field 
with the money which Judas restored. 2. The death of 
Judas is here described as occasioned by a precipitous fall; 
whereas in the Gospel we are told that he went and hanged 



himself. 3. According to the Acts, the field received its 
name, “the field of blood,” from the violent death of Judas ; 
whereas according to Matthew it was so called because the 
money with which it was purchased was the price of blood. 

The first difference is easily removeable. When Peter 
says that Judas purchased a field with the wages of his crime, 
he employs a common rhetorical expression applied to a fact 
well known to his hearers, meaning that the field was pur¬ 
chased with the money of Judas, the verb being used in a 
causative sense; in a somewhat similar manner as a man is 
said to build a house, although actually the house was not 
built by him, hut with his money. 1 In reality, the field was 
not purchased by J udas, but by the priests with the money 
which they paid to him. 

The second difference relates to the mode of the death of 
Judas. Peter says that, u falling headlong, he burst asunder 
in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out; ” whereas 
Matthew says that u he went and hanged himself.” The 
common mode of reconciliation is that first advanced by 
Casaubon, that Judas went away and hanged himself; but 
that the rope breaking, he fell down from a considerable 
height with such violence, that, in the words of Peter, u he 
hurst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” 
But this has too much the appearance of an hypothesis 
invented to remove a difficulty. It, however, proves this 
much, that the accounts are not contradictory; because the 
death may have taken place in the manner supposed, or 
something similar may have occurred. It is, however, im¬ 
possible to point out the precise mode of agreement, as we 
are entirely ignorant of the particular circumstances attend¬ 
ing the death of Judas. All that we know is, that his death 
was one of violence, caused, as Matthew tells us, by his own 

The third difference is the reason assigned for the peculiar 
name of the field. According to Peter, it was called “ the 
field of blood” on account of the violent death of Judas; 

1 For examples of this mode of expression in Scripture, see Words¬ 
worth on the Acts , p. 40. 



and according to Matthew, because it was purchased with 
the price of blood. Some suppose that there are two u fields 
of blood,”—the one purchased by the price of blood, and the 
other that where Judas met his death. But only one field 
is here alluded to, and it is not intimated that Judas met his 
death in it. There is no improbability in the supposition 
that the field received its name for a twofold reason; both 
because it was purchased by blood-money, and because the 
traitor employed came to a violent end. Meyer observes that 
there is nothing improbable in the supposition that the name 
Akeldama was, soon after the death of Judas, formally given 
by the Sanhedrim to the field purchased by them for a 
public benefit. 

’AfceXSafid^ tout ecrriv ^coplov ai/iaro 5 — Akeldama , that 
is, the field ofi blood. The word Akeldama is Aramaic, the 
language then spoken in Palestine. Jerome says that this 
field was situated without the wall of Jerusalem, on the south 
side of Mount Zion, near to the valley of Hinnom. As late 
as the seventeenth century the supposed Akeldama was used 
as a burying-place by the Armenian Christians in Jerusalem. 

Ver. 20. Te^ypairiat <yap ev (3i(3X<p WaXpcwv—for it is 
ivritten in the book of Psalms. There are in this verse two 
quotations from the Psalms. The first is from Ps. Ixix. 25, 
<yevrjd/-jTCL> 7 ) eiraoXi^ avrov eprjpios, /cal pbrj earco 6 /caroi/ccov ev 
avrfj — let his habitation be desolate , and let there be no dweller 
therein. It varies somewhat from the Septuagint, where it 
stands, yevrjd/jTw 7 ) e'lravXis avrcov ppppcopievr], /cal ev toc? 
(7K7]V(hpiaaiv avrcov pfi earco 0 /carouccnv — let their habitation 
be desolate , and let there be no dweller in their tents. The 
plural is here changed into the singular, in order that the 
reference to Judas might be more pointed. This psalm is 
one of those termed Messianic. It is thrice applied by the 
sacred writers to Christ. Thus, ver. 9, where it is said, u The 
zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up,” is applied to Christ 
by St. John (John ii. 17); and the words which follow, 
a The reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen 
upon me,” are referred to Christ by St. Paul (Pom. xv. 3). 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 37. 



And the remarkable prediction in ver. 21, u They gave me 
also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar 
to drink,” is mentioned by St. John as being fulfilled at the 
crucifixion (John xix. 28, 29). 

Trjv Itt tcncorrrjv avrov \aj3erco erepos—his office let another 
take. This second quotation is from Ps. cix. 8, and is given 
verbatim from the Septuagint. In this psalm David is sup¬ 
posed to refer to Doeg the Edomite, or to Ahithophel. It 
is the most imprecatory of all the psalms, and may well bev' 
termed the Iscariot Psalm. What David here refers to his 
mortal enemy, finds its accomplishment in the betrayer of the 
Son of David. It is from this second prediction that St. 
Peter infers the necessity of filling up the vacancy occasioned 
by the death of Judas : it was, says he, predicted that another 
should take his office. 

Vers. 21, 22. In these verses Peter assigns the necessary 
qualifications of the new apostle. He must have associated 
with them during all the time that the Lord Jesus went irW 
and out among them; that is, during the whole of His 
public ministry. He states the commencement of that period 
to be the baptism of John, and its termination to be the day/ 
of the ascension. That the new apostle should be one of the 
seventy disciples (Kuinoel), is a probable conjecture. The 
office of an apostle is here also stated as that of a witness of^ 
Christ’s resurrection ffidprvpa ri}? dvacrracrecos avrov). The 
resurrection was the principal fact in the life of Christ to 
which the apostles had to bear witness; it was the crowning 
proof of the divinity of His mission, the divine declaration 
of His Sonship, and that which gave efficacy to His vicarious 
sufferings and death. 

Ver. 23. Kal earrjcrav Svo—and they appointed two: namely, 
the assembly appointed them; not Peter, nor the apostles as 
a body. They do not venture to appoint one, because they 
would leave the ultimate choice with the Lord. It is im¬ 
possible to assign the reason why only two, and not more, 
were proposed as candidates; perhaps a larger and more 
intimate acquaintance with the Lord might entitle them to a 



'Icocr?](f) top fcaXov/ievov Bapcral3j3av , o? ottckX^Ot] ’ Iovctto ? 
—Joseph called Barsabbas 1 who was surnamed Justus. This 
Joseph had two other names. The one, Barsabbas, a name 
of doubtful import, but probably a patronymic, signifying 
the son of Sabbas; as Bartholomew is the son of Ptolemy, 
Barjonas the son of Jonas, etc. The other name, Justus, is 
a Roman surname, the practice of adopting which was then 
usual among the Jews. We know nothing about this Joseph, 
and the attempts to identify him with other scriptural cha¬ 
racters are mere conjectures. Ullmann supposes that he is 
the same as Joses surnamed Barnabas ; but Barnabas is 
not the same as Barsabbas, and he is mentioned in Acts 
iv. 36 as if he were introduced to the notice of the reader 
for the first time. Lightfoot and Doddridge think that he 
might be the same as Joses the son of xllphseus, the brother 
of James (the Less), and one of the brethren (cousins) of 
our Lord; but except that this Joses would possess the requi¬ 
site qualifications, and that his brother James was also called 
the Just, no reasons are assigned for this opinion. Others 
think that he was the same as Judas surnamed Barsabbas, 
mentioned in Acts xv. 22, who accompanied Paul and Bar¬ 
nabas from Jerusalem to Antioch, and who is described as a 
chief man among the brethren; but the utmost that could 
be inferred from this statement is, that Joseph Barsabbas 
and Judas Barsabbas might possibly be brothers. Eusebius 
states that Papias relates that this Joseph called Barsabbas 
drank a deadly poison, but through the grace of God expe¬ 
rienced nothing injurious ( IJist. Eccl. iii. 39). 

Kal Mardlap — and Matthias. We are equally ignorant 
about Matthias. All that we know of him is, that he was a 
disciple of Christ, and a constant attendant on His travels 
and ministry, from its commencement until His ascension. 
Some, with that strange perversity which attempts on purely 
conjectural grounds to identify scriptural characters, suppose 
him to be the same as Nathanael, because both names signify 
the gift of God. Eusebius says that he was one of the 
seventy disciples ( Hist. Eccl. i. 12),—a tradition probable in 
itself, and which is also noticed by Epiphanius. According 



to Nicephorus, lie preached the gospel and suffered martyr¬ 
dom in Ethiopia (Nicephorus, ii. 40). 

Ver. 24. Kal Trpoaev^dyevoc elirav—And having prayed , 
they said. Peter here probably prayed as the spokesman of 
the apostles. It is a matter of dispute to whom this prayer 
was offered. The general opinion is, that Christ is the Lord 
here addressed. The reasons for this are : 1. The word 
Kvpios, when used absolutely in the New Testament, gene¬ 
rally refers to Christ. 2. Jesus is directly called Kvpuos in 
ver. 21, and it is to Him that avrov in ver. 22 applies; and 
therefore it is most natural that the Kvpte of ver. 24 should 
be referred to Him as the nearest antecedent. 3. The election 
was that of an apostle of Christ, and the other apostles were all 
chosen directly by Christ, and so afterwards was Paul. 4. The 
first Christians were in the habit of praying directly to Christ 
(Acts vii. 59). This opinion has been called in question by 
Meyer. He observes that in Acts xv. 7 Peter says expressly 
of God, that He made choice that the Gentiles should by 
him hear the word of God ; and he there calls God Kaphuo- 
yvcocrTTis, u who knows the hearts.” 1 But the circumstance 
to which Meyer refers is not a call to the apostleship, but the 
call of the Gentiles. And that God is called Kaphioyvwarr)^ 
does not preclude a similar designation of Christ; indeed, 
Peter himself on a former occasion directly appeals to Christ 
as acquainted with the heart: “ Lord, Thou knowest all 
things ; Thou knowest that I love Thee” (John xxi. 17). 

Ver. 25. Eh top tottop top Ihcov — to his own place. Various 
meanings are attached to these words. Some (Hammond, 
Knatchbull) refer them to the successor of Judas—that the 
person who succeeded might go to his own place, namely the 
apostleship,—a meaning which is unnatural and tautological. 
Others, referring them to Judas, interpret them, that he 
might go to his own house (Keuchen) ; and others to his own 
society, namely the Pharisees and the enemies of Jesus 
(Heinrichs),—meanings at variance with the violent death of 
Judas, on which Peter insists; and others (Meyer,De Wette), 
that he might go to the place of punishment—that place 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschiclite , p. 39. 



worthy of him, and which he has merited by his crime. 
And this seems to be the true meaning. This sense is asree- 
able to the language of the Jews ; for the Jewish rabbis 
thus interpret the passage where it is said that Balaam went 
to his own place (Nuin. xxiv. 25), that is, say they, to hell 
(Lightfoot). The treason of Judas was such an enormous 
crime, that the hearers of Peter could be in no doubt what 
was meant by his own place. 

Ver. 26. Kal ehwtcav tcXrjpovs avrols — and they cast lots for 
them. The lot was employed in Old Testament times for 
various purposes : 1. The division of land among the tribes ^ 
of Israel was decided by lot (Num. xxvi. 55; Josh, xviii. 10). 

2. In criminal cases, when there was not sufficient evidence, 
the lot was employed (Josh. vii. 14, 18 ; 1 Sam. xiv. 41, 42). 

3. In warlike enterprises, the armies employed were often 

selected by lot (Judg. xx. 10). 4. In the appointment of 

persons for important offices, when several appeared to 
possess equal qualifications, the election was by lot: as the 
appointment of Saul to be king of Israel, and here the elec¬ 
tion of Matthias to the apostleship. 1 

From the employment of the lot in the election of Matthias, 
and from its frequent use under the Jewish dispensation, 
many have argued in favour of its admissibility. It has, 
they observe, the sanction of apostolic example. In cases of 
difficulty, when the reasons on both sides of the question 
appear equally balanced, and it seems impossible to decide, 
recourse may be had, after prayer for the divine direction, 
to the lot. Calvin declares in favour of its use. u Those 
men,” he observes, u who think it to be wickedness to cast 
lots at all, offend partly through ignorance, and partly they 
understand not the force of this word. There is nothing 
which men do not corrupt with their boldness and vanity, 
whereby it is come to pass that they have brought lots into 
great abuse and superstition ; for that divination and con¬ 
jecture which is made by lots is altogether devilish. But 
when magistrates divide provinces among them, and brethren 
their inheritance, the lot is a thins lawful. Which thins 

7 O O 

1 See Winer’s biblisclies Worterlmch , art. Loos. 

YOL. I. 




Solomon doth plainly testify when he makes God the governor 
of the event: i The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole 
disposing thereof is of the Lord’ (Prov. xvi. 33).” 1 So also 
Olshausen observes : u Certainly this occurrence—the election 
of Matthias by lot—will always remain a proof not to be 
overlooked of the lawfulness of the lot in those cases where a 
decision needs to he given, and when it transcends the ability 
of man to discover what is right.” 2 The Moravians are the 
onlv sect of Christians who recognise the lawfulness of the 
lot, and employ it in the government of their church.—It 
must be admitted that this appeal to apostolic practice and 
scriptural usage has considerable weight, and consequently 
the use of the lot in difficult questions is not to be at once 
condemned as unscriptural and superstitious. But, on the 
other hand, it is to be observed that, under the Old Testament 
dispensation, the Jews were under the immediate government 
of God, who miraculously interposed in their affairs ; and as 
regards the election of Matthias, the circumstances were so 
peculiar, that it can hardly be regarded as an example for 
imitation. We do not find that after the outpouring of the 
Holy Spirit the disciples had recourse to the lot. 

The propriety of the whole transaction—the election of 
Matthias to the apostleship by the disciples—has been called 
in question by Stier and others. 3 It was, it is asserted, the 
duty of the church not to act, but to wait, until by the gift 
of the Holy Spirit they were endowed with power from on 
high; the choice of Matthias took place before the Holy 
Spirit was given, and therefore is to be regarded as a mere 
human act ; Christ indeed intended that the apostleship 
vacant by the death of Judas should be filled up in accord¬ 
ance with the prediction adduced by St. Peter, but He Him¬ 
self, and not the church, was to fill up the vacancy; it was 
Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles, and not the obscure 
Matthias, who was the destined successor of Judas; Peter 

1 Calvin on Acts , i. 26. 

2 Olshausen on the Gospels and Acts, vol. iv. p. 241, Clark’s translation. 
So also Schleiermacher adopts a similar view. 

3 Stier’s Words of the Apostles , pp. 12-15, Clark’s translation. 



here acted rashly as on other occasions, and the church was 
wrongly persuaded by him. Now there is considerable 
plausibility in this view of the subject. We hear nothing 
of Matthias; whereas Paul comes prominently forward as a 
new apostle. But, on the other hand, we think that if the 
church had here committed a mistake, there would have been 
some indication in the history to that effect. The compara¬ 
tive obscurity of Matthias equally belongs to the greater 
number of the apostles. And as to Paul, he seems to have 
occupied a position distinct from the twelve; they being the 
apostles of the circumcision, and he the apostle of the uncir¬ 
cumcision. In the words of Lange, u we find not the least 
trace in Scripture or in the ancient church that this step 
taken by Peter had been disapproved of. As regards Paul, 
he himself better understood his position in the kingdom of 
God. He is contrasted with the apostles of the Jews, as the 
apostle of the Gentiles; or more exactly, the apostle of pro¬ 
gress, as contrasted with the apostles of the foundation.” 1 

1 Lange’s Apostolische Zeitalter , vol. ii. p. 12. 



1 And while the day of Pentecost was being fulfilled, they were all 
together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound, 
as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they 
were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues, as of fire, dis¬ 
tributed among them, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were 
all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, 
according as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 But there were dwell¬ 
ing at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 
6. Now, when this sound took place, the multitude came together, and 
were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his 
own dialect. 7 And they were amazed, and marvelled, saying, Behold, 
are not all these who speak Galileans ? 8 And how hear we every man 

in our own dialect, wherein we were born ? 9 Parthians and Medes, 

and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, 
Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pampliylia, Egypt and the parts of 
Libya about Cyrene, and the Roman sojourners, both Jews and prose¬ 
lytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we hear them in our tongues, speaking 
the great things of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were in 
doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 But others, 
mocking, said, They are full of sweet wine. 


Yer. 7. JTar're? after i^laravro Se, found in A, C, E, K, 
but wanting in B, D, several cursive MSS., and versions, is 
omitted by Tischendorf, Bornemann, and Laehmann. Ilpbs 
a\\r)\ov<;, found in D, E, is also omitted by Tischendorf and 
Laehmann, being wanting in A, B, C, X. 



Yer. 1 . Kal ev raj crvv7r\7]povcr0cu — And ivhile the day of 
Pentecost was being fulfilled. The day of Pentecost is here 




marked as the time when the effusion of the Spirit occurred. 
%W7rXrjpovcrOcu denotes the fulfilment of a certain period. 
Compare 7 rX^pco/ia tov %povov , Gal. iv. 4. The reference is 
to the day itself, not to the completion of the interval between 
the Passover and Pentecost (Baumgarten, Olshausen). All 
interpretations which fix upon another day are erroneous ; as 
the opinion of Hitzig, who, rendering the clause, “ when the 
day of Pentecost was approaching its fulfilment,” thinks that 
the occurrence took place before Pentecost; and the opinion 
of Lightfoot, who, rendering it, “ when the day of Pentecost 
was completed or past,” thinks that it occurred on the day 
after Pentecost. 

The word Pentecost signifies “ the fiftieth.” It was used 
as a substantive among the Hellenistic Jews to denote one 
of their three great feasts, and is so employed in the Apoc¬ 
rypha. Thus, “ In the feast of Pentecost, which is the 
holy feast of the seven weeks” (Tobit ii. 1); “After the 
feast called Pentecost” (2 Macc. xii. 32). So also Joseph. 
Ant. iii. 10. 6. It was so called because it happened on the 
fiftieth day, calculated from the second day of unleavened 
bread. In the Old Testament it is called “the feast of 
weeks,” and “ the feast of harvest.” It differed from the 
other two national festivals, “ the feast of the passover ” and 
“ the feast of tabernacles,” in being restricted to a single 
day. These annual festivals were attended not only by 
multitudes of Jews from all parts of Palestine, but also by 
Jews from the adjoining countries. “An innumerable mul¬ 
titude,” observes Josephus, “ came thither (to Jerusalem at 
the passover) out of the country, nay, from beyond its limits 
also, to worship God ” ( Ant . xvii. 9. 2). Even during the 
rasing of the Jewish war this assembling of the Jews at 
their feasts was not relinquished : for Josephus informs us 
that Titus laid siege to Jerusalem when it was crowded with 
pilgrims who had come up to the passover, and who were 
on a sudden shut up by the Homan army (Jud. Bell. vi. 9. 3). 
The primary object of the feast of Pentecost was to thank 
God for the blessings of the harvest. It was pre-eminently 
a joyful feast, a thanksgiving (Deut. xvi. 10, 11). After- 



wards it came to be considered as a commemoration of the 
giving of the law, as it appears from various notices that the 
law was given from Sinai fifty days after the first passover, 
or after the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. There 
is, however, no allusion to the law in the description of this 
festival either in the Old Testament or in Josephus. 

The day of Pentecost was, according to the law of Moses, 
to be reckoned a from the morrow after the Sabbath, from 
the day that the sheaf-offering was made” (Lev. xxiii. 15). 
This, according to the general opinion among the Jews, was 
from the day after the first day of the passover week (that 
day being a holy or sabbatical day), or from the sixteenth 
of the month Nisan, the passover itself being on the four¬ 
teenth day (Lev. xxiii. 5; Joseph. Ant. iii. 11. 5, 6); but, 
according to the Karaites, who reject all traditions and ad¬ 
here to the Scriptures as the only rule, Pentecost was to 
be reckoned from the Sabbath in the passover week. The 
reckoning of the Karaites, however, cannot be traced back 

to Old Testament times. The season of the vear on which 


this feast occurred was the month of May. The common 
tradition is that this particular Pentecost, on which the Holy 
Spirit was given, like the day of the resurrection, occurred 
on a Sunday. If, as is most probable, the passover w T as 
celebrated on the evening of Thursday, the day before the 
crucifixion, when our Lord partook of it with His disciples, 
then Thursday would be the fourteenth day of Nisan, and 
Saturday, or the Jewish Sabbath, the sixteenth day; and 
consequently the fiftieth day from that, or Pentecost, would 
occur on a Sunday. According to the method of reckoning 
employed by the Karaites, Pentecost always happened on a 
Sunday. 1 

1 There is, however, a difficulty in these calculations, partly owing 
to the different commencement of the Jewish day, and partly to the 
doubtful question from what day the fifty days are to be calculated— 
whether the sixteenth of Nisan is included or excluded in the calcula¬ 
tion. Olshausen observes: “The Jewish Pentecost in, the year of our 
Lord’s death fell upon Saturday, but it began at six o’clock in the 
evening, when the Sabbath was at a close, and it lasted till six o’clock 
on Sunday evening.” Wordsworth gives the following calculation:— 



’Hcrav arravres oyodvyaSov—they were all with one accord. 
The persons present are not to be restricted to the apostles 
(Hammond) ; nor even to the hundred and twenty disciples 
who met in the upper room after the ascension ; because 
many of our Lord’s numerous followers in Galilee would 
have come up to Jerusalem to the feast, and would have 
been present on this occasion. 

’ EttI to avro—in one place. In the next verse we are 
informed that the place of assembly was a house ( rov ohcov). 
For reasons already stated, we are not here to think of the 
temple (see note on ch. i. 13). That the third hour, or 
the hour of prayer, is mentioned by Peter in his discourse 
(ver. 14), is no proof that the disciples met in the temple; 
because this assembly would have taken place some time 
before that hour, as an interval must necessarily have 
elapsed before Peter addressed the multitude. Neither is 
the assembling of the multitude, who would be at the 
temple, any argument, because the wonderful circumstances 
attending; the event would have drawn a crowd together 
wherever it took place. And the reason that, “ as the crown¬ 
ing inauguration of Christ took place in the temple (John 
xii. 28), so it also behoved to be the case with the founding 
of the church ; that the solemn inauguration of the church 
of Christ presents itself as an imposing spectacle in the 
sanctuary of the old covenant” (Olshausen) ; or that a the 
new spiritual temple must proceed from the hall of the old 
temple ” (Lange) ; is wholly fanciful and destitute of all 
weight. Were the temple the place of meeting, Luke 
would have mentioned it, and not have left it to be guessed 
by the reader. 

Ver. 2. Kal eyevero acpvco — and suddenly there came from 
heaven a sound as of a mighty rushing wind. What happened 

Thursday, the 14th day of the month Nisan, Christ institutes the holy 
Eucharist. Friday, the 15th day of Nisan, He was crucified. Saturday, 
the 16th day of Nisan, He rests in the grave. Sunday, 17th day of 
Nisan, He rises from the grave. From the end of Saturday, the 16th 
day of Nisan, forty-nine days are counted ; and the fiftieth, or feast of 
Penteeost, falls on a Sunday. 



took place suddenly, unexpectedly (d^vcd). The disciples 
had, during the ten days which intervened between the 
ascension and Pentecost, been engaged in incessant prayer, 
waiting for the promise of the Father; and now, without 
any previous intimation, this promise was fulfilled. Luke 
evidently represents this sound from heaven as miraculous 
in its nature, being the symbol of the Spirit. It was not 
a mighty rushing wind, but like to it (foairep). We are 
then to discard all natural explanations, such as a thunder¬ 
storm (Renan), a blast (Ewald), or an earthquake attended 
by a whirlwind, which shook the building in which the 
disciples were assembled (Neander), as uncountenanced by 
the text, and as unwarrantable attempts to explain away the 

Ver. 3. Kal dx^Orjaav aurot?— and there appeared to them; 
not, and there ivas seen on them (Luther). ALafjLepity/JLevai — 
distributed , i.e. among the disciples. Thus Olshausen, De 
Wette, Meyer, Lechler, Hackett, and Robinson (compare 
Luke xxii. 17). The meaning is that the flames, in the form 
of tongues, distributed themselves among those present. 
The other rendering, disparted , or cloven , as in our transla- 
r tion (Calvin, Heinrichs, Stier, Alford), is a more unusual 
sense of the word. According to this view, the tongues pre¬ 
sented a fork-like appearance. 

TXwaaac coael 7 rupo? —tongues as of fire. As the sound 
from heaven is not to be explained as a natural occurrence, 
so neither are the u toimues as of fire.” We cannot then here 


think of electric lights, which occasionally fix themselves 
upon pointed objects, such as towers, masts of ships, and 
even on men (Paulus, Thiess) : this occurrence took place 
inside of a house, whereas these phenomena always happen 
in the open air. Equally to be rejected is the idea of a flash 
of lightning passing through the room, which the excited 
minds of the disciples caused them to see in strange forms 
(Heinrichs, Renan); or that in an ecstatic state they believed 
that they themselves saw tongues of fire (Heumann). 

’ E/cddicre re ecf eva eKacrrov avrcov—and it sat upon each of 
them: i.e. not an indefinite object, u something sat upon each 



of them;” nor u the Holy Ghost” (Calvin), which is unin¬ 
telligible; but u a tongue as of fire.” The fire-like tongues 
were distributed among the assembly, so that one of them 
sat upon each of the disciples. Doubtless both these appear¬ 
ances—the sound from heaven and the tongues of fire—had 
a symbolical import. The sound, as of a mighty rushing 
wind, was a symbol of the mighty power of the Spirit; and 
its coming from heaven represented its origin. The tongues 
represented the gift of tongues about to be conferred on the 
disciples; and their appearance in the form of fire might be 
intended to denote the zeal and inspiration which were to be 
kindled in the breasts of the disciples, and to be manifested 
in their lives. 

Ver. 4. Kal iirKgaOrjcrav airavre ? IIvevyaTOS aylov—and 
they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Before the day of 
Pentecost the disciples had received the Holy Ghost, but 
only to a limited extent; but now the Holy Ghost was 
poured out upon them in an abundant measure. Yet we 
must not suppose that the Holy Ghost was bestowed upon 
them in such a measure as to preclude all increase, or to 
supersede a gradual growth in grace. 

Kal ijp^avro \a\elv erepat? yXcocrcrais—and they began to 
speak with other tongues. This was the immediate effect of 
their being filled with the Holy Ghost. They commenced 
to utter words in other tongues. The most natural interpre¬ 
tation of this—when taken in connection with what follows 
—is that they spoke in other languages than their native 
Aramaic. The word yXwacra is capable of three significa¬ 
tions : 1 . The tongue, the organ of speech. Hence some 
(Bardili, Eichhorn, Wieseler) suppose that the disciples here 
uttered inarticulate sounds ; but it is evident that 7 Xwaaa 
and 3taA,eWo? are here used in the same sense: the hearers 
are said to have heard them speak each in his own dialect. 
2. An antiquated form of expression (Bleek); as glossary is 
used by us to signify a list of antiquated expressions. This, 
however, is not the usual, but a rhetorical sense of the word, 
and besides does not answer the conditions of the pheno- 
3. Speech or language. This is the only meaning 




of the word which suits the passage under consideration. 
“ They began to speak with other tongues,” that is, in 
languages different from their own. Meyer, although he 
disputes the fact altogether, yet, with his wonted candour, 
admits that this is the only meaning which the words will 
here bear. “For the sure determination of what Luke here 
means,” he observes, “it is decisive that erepai^ ry\cocrcrap ? 
on the part of the speakers was, in point of fact, what the 
Parthians, Medes, Elamites, etc., designated as raU rj/Aerepais 
'yXwaaan The other tongues, then, are, according to the 
text, to be considered as absolutely nothing else than lan¬ 
guages which were different from the native language of the 
speakers. They, the Galileans, spoke Parthian, Median, 
Persian, etc., and therefore foreign languages ; and indeed 
—the point wherein precisely appeared the miraculous 
operation of the Spirit — unacquired languages ( Jkwacrai ? 

Mark xvi. 17). Accordingly, the text itself de¬ 
termines the sense of 7 Xwaacu as that of languages, and 
excludes as impossible the explanations which differ from 
this .” 1 

Ka6a)<; to IIvev/jia—according as the Spirit gave them, utter¬ 
ance , i.e. in such manner and measure as was granted to 
them by the Holy Spirit. Their utterances were thus not 
under their own control, but under the control of the Holy 
Spirit. They were inspired, in the strictest sense of the 

Ver. 5. ’ Hcrav Se ip 'IepovcraXrjp, KaTOLKOvvres—hut there 
were dwelling at Jerusalem. KaTOLicovvTes is certainly not 
generally used to denote a temporary residence, but an 
abiding dwelling; but here, as is evident from the context, 
it must be taken in a wide sense : for amonc* the hearers are 


mentioned dwellers (01 KaTOLtcoovres) in Mesopotamia, and 
Roman sojourners. Probably among those devout men there 
were not only those who had come to Jerusalem to worship 
at the feast of Pentecost, but many also who from religious 
motives had fixed their residence in the holy city. 

’IovSaioi, arhpes evXafiei? — Jews , devout men . 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte 1 pp. 49, 50. 




showed their devotion bv coming from such distances to 
worship at Jerusalem, and several of them by wishing to 
spend their last days in the neighbourhood of the temple. 
Bishop Pearson supposes, with much probability, that at 
this particular period numerous foreign Jews flocked to 
Jerusalem, because of the persuasion concerning the near 
approach of the Messiah. 1 

'Airo 7 ravTos edvovs tgov vtto t bv ovpavov — out of every 
nation under heaven. An hyperbolic expression, denoting the 
wide dispersion of the Jews. The Jews, then as now, were 
scattered throughout the world. Philo says that u the Jews 
sojourn in the greater number and in the more prosperous 
of the cities throughout the provinces and islands of Europe 
and Asia.” And Josephus represents Agrippa as saying, 
that u there was no nation upon earth who had not Jews 
dwelling among them” (Jud. Bell. ii. 16. 4). There were 
three noted dispersions of the Jews. The first was when 
Shalmaneser settled the ten tribes in the cities of the Medes. 
The second v/as the Babylonish captivity, when the Jews 
were settled chiefly in Mesopotamia. And the third was the 
colonization of Alexandria and several districts of Egypt 
with Jews by Alexander the Great and Ptolemy Lagus. In 
addition to these, vast numbers of Jews had, for the sake of 
trade, settled in various countries. 2 This dispersion of the 
Jews was strikingly providential; for by it the knowledge 
of the true God was disseminated, the expectation of the 
Messiah became current, and thus men of all nations were 
in a measure prepared for the reception of Christianity. 

Ver. 6. revofievrjs Be ravT7]<=;—now when this 

sound took place. These words have been variously inter¬ 
preted. According to some (Calvin, Beza), the rumour of 
the occurrence is meant; as in our version, u when this was 
noised abroad.” But this would be to take cfxovy] in the 
sense of a meaning which is doubtful. According to 

others (Bleek, Kuinoel), the loud voices and speaking of the 
disciples are meant; but then mvrj would have been in the 

1 Pearson’s Lectures on the Acts, p. 9. 

2 See Du Veil on the Acts, p. 36 ; Cook on the Acts, p. 17. 



plural, and there is no intimation that the disciples spoke so 
loudly as to draw together a multitude. Others (Meyer, 
De Wette, Lechler, Hackett, Alford) translate it sound , a 
common meaning of the word, and refer it to the sound 
( 'fix 0? ) as a eighty rushing wind ; and this appears to 
be the correct interpretation. The miraculous sound had 
been heard throughout the city, and had arrested the atten¬ 
tion of the worshippers in the temple. 

’XvvrfkOe to 7 rXrjdos — the multitude came together. We are 
not informed by what means the multitude were drawn to 
the particular house where the disciples were assembled : 
perhaps the sound issued from the house as a centre, or on 
its occurrence the disciples may have gone out to the streets 
and commenced speaking with tongues. To affirm, with 
Neander, that the shock of an earthquake drove the people 
from their houses, and occasioned the concourse, 1 is to assert 
what is not in the text. 

Tg IS la SiaXeicTti) — in his own dialect. Not properly 
national language, but dialect; the word being perhaps 
designedly chosen, as several of the nations afterwards 
mentioned spoke dialects of the same language. However, 
the word is not to be taken too strictly, as several distinct 
national languages are supposed, as Greek, Persian, and 

Ver. 7. Ov/c ISov nravres ovrot — TaXCKalou — Behold , are 
not all these ivho speak Galileans ? The disciples are here 
called Galileans, not to denote that they belonged to a par¬ 
ticular sect (Eichhorn, Kuinoel) ; for the name Galilean 
was not given to Christians until afterwards. Nor is there 
any reference' here to their ignorance or want of culture 
(Heinrichs). But they are so called on account of their 
nationality. The Galileans used a particular dialect which 
distinguished them from the inhabitants of Judea. 2 Thus 
Peter’s mode of speech betrayed him, and at once disclosed 
the place of his nativity : “ Surely thou art one of them : 
for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto” 

1 Neander’s Planting , p. 17, Bolin’s edition. 

2 See Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 58. 



(Mark xiv. 70). What astonished the multitude, was to find 
these men, who were known to be Galileans, speaking in 
foreign tongues. All the apostles were inhabitants of 
Galilee, where our Lord principally resided; and by far the 
greater part of the disciples belonged to the same district of 

Ver. 8. Kal i rco? ryiecs drcovoyev—and how hear vie every 
man in our own dialect , ivherein ive were horn ? The Jews 
who dwelt in foreign countries had to a great extent lost u*- 
their acquaintance "with their native language, and then, as 
now, spoke the language or dialect of the countries in which 
they dwelt. Even the foreign Jews who had taken up their 
residence in Jerusalem retained their foreign lancruatres, and 
had separate synagogues where these languages were used. 
Indeed, it would seem that Greek was at this period very ' 
much spoken in Palestine. When Paul addressed the multi¬ 
tude in Aramaic, it seems to be implied that they understood 
Greek, and were even prepared to listen to a Greek oration * 
(Acts xxii. 2). 

Yers. 9-11. In these verses we have a list of the different 
nations to which the foreign Jews belonged, who heard the 
disciples speak in their own languages. This list is not to be 
understood as given by the wondering multitude, but as a 
historical remark introduced by Luke. The nations also, it 
is to be observed, are mentioned with respect to their dialects. 
The first three names, Partitions, and Medes , and Elamites , 
represented portions of the Persian empire. It was among 
these nations that Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, settled 
the ten tribes. Mesopotamia is the well-known district 
between the Euphrates and the Tigris. It was here that the 
Jews led captive by Nebuchadnezzar were settled. Judea 
is next mentioned, where certainly we would not have ex¬ 
pected it, as its language was not foreign to the disciples. 
Different readings occur in the writings of the Fathers. 
Theophylact has omitted the word; Jerome reads u Syria;” 
and Tertullian and Augustine read u Armenia;” but the 
overwhelming preponderance of authority is in favour of 
Judea. We do not think that the reason of its insertion 



was that it was mentioned from a Roman point of view and 
for Roman readers (Olshausen) ; or because the dialect of 
Judea w r as different from that of Galilee (Meyer, De Wette, 
Bengel, Wordsworth); or from a territorial point of view, 
because Judea lay in the direction followed in the list 
(Alford); but because Luke would enumerate all the 
languages which the disciples spoke before the multitude 
(Hackett). Cappadocia was at this time a Roman province. 
Pontus , situated along the borders of the Black Sea, was 
then governed by chiefs dependent on the Romans, and was 
reduced to the state of a province in the reign of Nero. By 
Asia here, and in the Acts generally, is to be understood 
neither the continent of Asia nor Asia Minor, but the 
Roman province of Asia. When Attalus bequeathed the 
kingdom of Pergamus to the Romans, they converted it into 
the province of Asia. It was the coast-line along the Medi¬ 
terranean, and included the old districts of Ionia, Lydia, 
. Mysia, and Caria, and at times part of Phrygia. Asia was 
one of the richest of the Roman provinces, containing 
numerous flourishing cities; its capital and seat of govern¬ 
ment was Ephesus. Phrygia was not then a Roman province, 
but a district of country which contributed portions to several 
provinces: at this time the greater part of it belonged to the 
province of Asia. Pamphylia was a small district situated 
between Cilicia and the Lydian part of proconsular Asia. 
Egypt was inhabited by numerous Jews; so much so, that 
two-fifths of the population of Alexandria were said to have 
been Jews (Philo in Flacc. p. 973). Cyrene was a large 
city in Libya, a country to the west of Egypt. The Jews 
there constituted one-fourth of the population (Joseph. Ant. 
xiv. 7. 2) ; and so many Cyrenian Jews lived in Jerusalem, 
that they had a synagogue of their own (Acts vi. 9). Roman 
sojourners , that is, Roman Jews who now sojourned at Jeru¬ 
salem. We learn from Tacitus, that the Jews were so 
numerous at Rome that they were regarded with jealousy by 
the government. Jews and proselytes refer to all the pre¬ 
ceding nations; Jews by birth, and proselytes, converts 
from heathenism. Cretes , the inhabitants of the island of 



Crete, where the Jews were very numerous. And Arabians , 
among whom, as their country bordered on Judea, there 
must have been numerous Jews. 

De Wette declares that this catalogue of names is inaccu¬ 
rate and unmeaning. Many of the nations mentioned spoke 
the same language : in Mesopotamia and Judea, Aramaic 
was spoken; in the states of Asia Minor, in Egypt, Cyrene, 
and Crete, Greek; and in Rome itself, Greek was generally 
known. 1 But although many of these nations spoke the 
same language, j^et each doubtless had its own dialect, and 
it is especially of dialects ( Siake/cros ) that Luke speaks. De 
Wette himself mentions that the Parthians, Medes, and 
Elamites spoke different though cognate languages. 

Ver. 11. Td yeyaAeia rod 0 eov — the mighty things of 
God. The disciples praised God in these different languages; 
thus offering to Him, on this the birthday of the new crea¬ 
tion, the homage of all nations, the hallelujah of the human 

Vers. 12, 13. The effect upon the multitude was twofold. 
Some were impressed, and became inquirers: u They were 
amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What 
meaneth this ? Others, mocking, said, They are full of 
sweet wine.” Meyer supposes that these scoffers belonged 
to the hierarchical party of the Jews—the enemies of Christ. 
Others (Lightfoot, Alford, Wordsworth, Hackett) think that 
they were natives of Judea, who, not understanding that the 
disciples spoke in foreign languages, imagined that they only 
uttered incoherent words. It is probable that there was 
something in the excited manner in which the disciples acted, 
and in their ejaculations of praise in foreign languages, 
which would appear to the unsusceptible as fanaticism 
(compare 1 Cor. xiv. 23). T\evicovs—sweet wine. This word 
denotes a certain kind of sweet wine used in the East which 
was very intoxicating. 

1 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 27. 




We have deferred the particular consideration of this inte¬ 
resting and difficult subject until we had concluded our exe- 
getical remarks on the text. As we have already observed, 
the obvious meaning of the passage under consideration is, 
that the disciples were miraculously endowed with the faculty 
of speaking in foreign languages. The word 7 Xwcrcra in this 
connection can only denote language; and erepaLs <y\(jdGGcu$ 
can only mean other languages than those known to the dis¬ 
ciples. The assembled multitude were confounded, because 
every man heard his own dialect spoken ; they were amazed, 
because those who thus spoke were known to be Galileans ; 
and a long list of nations is given who heard, in their own 
tongues, the wonderful works of God. Now, were this the 
only place where the gift of tongues is mentioned, there would 
be little difficulty in understanding what is meant by it. But 
the subject becomes in no small degree complicated when we 
compare the phenomenon of Pentecost with the description 
of the gift of tongues given us in other parts of Scripture, 
and especially in 1 Cor. xiv. 

The following are the other notices which we have in 
Scripture of this gift. Our Saviour, after His resurrection, 
mentions among the signs that should follow those who be¬ 
lieved, that they should speak with new tongues (Mark xvi. 
17). When Cornelius and his company were converted, the 
Holy Ghost fell on them as on the disciples at Pentecost 
(Acts xi. 15), and they spoke with tongues, and magnified 
God (Acts x. 46). When Paul laid his hands on the 
Ephesian disciples who had only been baptized unto John’s 
baptism, “ the Holy Ghost came on them, and they spake 
with tongues, and prophesied” (Acts xix. 6 ). Paul, in enu¬ 
merating the gifts of the Spirit, mentions among them as 
distinct gifts, “kinds of tongues,” and “the interpretation of 
tongues” (1 Cor. xii. 10 ). And especially, in the fourteenth 
chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the gift of 
tongues is dwelt upon at length. Paul there speaks of 



a diversities of tongues/’ and of u speaking and praying in 

There is some variety in the names which this gift bears 
in the New Testament. In our passage it is called erepcus 
<y\co<To-aL<; XaXelv; in Mark’s Gospel we find kcuvclIs <y\wcr- 
(tclls \a\ 6 Lv ; in Acts x. 46 , xix. 6, and in 1 Cor. xiv., it is 
simply ryXcoacrcus or yXcoacry XaXelv. St. Paul also speaks 
of <yevri <y\wacrwv (1 Cor. xii. 28 ) and jXcoaory 'rrpocrev'xecrOcu 
(1 Cor. xiv. 14 ). 

We shall at present restrict ourselves to the occurrence on 
the day of Pentecost, and inquire how it has been understood 
by various writers. 

1 . And, first, let us attend to the natural explanations 
which have been given of it by critics of the rationalistic 
school. It is supposed by them that the disciples were not 
all Galilean Jews; but that among them there were several 
foreign Jews who addressed the multitude in their own 
languages, so that all the foreigners in Jerusalem heard the 
gospel in their own tongues. This is the theory adopted, 
with some variations, by Paulus, Kuinoel, Heinrichs, and 
Thiess. But, not to mention that this opinion charges the 
historian with an attempt at deception—for he certainly gives 
us the impression that the disciples spoke in languages 
strange to them—it is exposed to unanswerable objections. 
It is extremely improbable that there should at this time 
have been a number of foreign Jews among the disciples, 
as it was not until after Pentecost that the Christian com¬ 
munity extended itself. Besides, this opinion would remove * 
all cause of wonder, because, according to it, every man 
spoke in his own language. And such a use of their native 
tongue could not be called a gift of the Spirit. In short, 
every attempt to remove the miraculous in this manner, 
and to explain the phenomenon by assuming that the dis¬ 
ciples spoke in their native languages, is directly against the 
nature and words of the narrative, and is now generally 
rejected by critics of every school. 

2 . Another opinion, more common in ancient than in 
modern times, is that which converts the miracle of speaking 

VOL. I. F 



into a miracle of hearing. The disciples, it is said, did 
indeed speak in their own languages; but the foreign Jews, 
by a spiritual sympathy, believed that they heard them speak 
in their own tongues. Thus, according to this view, Peter 
indeed addressed the multitude in Aramaic, but to one hearer 
the words sounded as Greek, to another as Arabic, and to a 
third as Persian. This opinion was advanced by Cyprian, 
Gregory of Nyssa, and Bede, among the Fathers, by 
Erasmus at the time of the Reformation, and in more recent 
times by Martensen and Schneckenburger. Billroth sup¬ 
poses that there is a primitive language, and that this was 
made known by the Spirit to the disciples, and that each of 
the hearers thought they found their own dialect in it. But 
such an opinion is not borne out by the narrative. It does 
not agree with the declaration that the disciples spoke with 
other tongues. It would transfer the miracle of Pentecost 


from believers to unbelievers. And, besides, it would be 
practising a deception upon the hearers, leading them to 
think that they heard what they actually did not hear : the 
words which sounded in their ears as Greek, Arabic, or Per¬ 
sian, being in reality Aramaic. 

3 . A third hypothesis is, that the speaking with tongues 
was merely incoherent utterances — jubilant expressions. 
This opinion was advanced by Bardili and Eichhorn, although 
they applied it only to 1 Cor. xiv. They defended their 
opinion by an appeal to 1 Cor. xiv. 7 , 8, where speaking 
with tongues is compared to the indistinct sounds of in¬ 
struments. Bunsen also held a similar opinion. So also 
Wieseler thinks that, when the disciples spoke with other 
tongues among themselves (Acts ii. 4 ), soft, unintelligible 
whisperings are meant, similar to the phenomenon described 
in 1 Cor. xiv.; but that when they addressed the multitude, 
the second stage, or the interpretation of tongues, is meant— 
that the speakers explained their unintelligible utterances. 
But such a hypothesis would divest the narrative of the 
miraculous, and degrade the whole phenomenon into a species 
of fanaticism. Luke leaves on us the decided impression that 
the words spoken were not inarticulate utterances, but that 



the hearers understood what was said. And in the passage 
it is evident that 7 X 0 )aaa and StaXe/cro? are interchanged. 

4. Another opinion is, that by other tongues is meant 
poetical, antiquated, unusual, provincial, and foreign expres¬ 
sions ; that we are to think of a discourse not in foreign 
languages, but in expressions which were strange to the 
language of common life, and in which there were several 
phrases borrowed from foreign dialects. This opinion was 
advanced and supported with great erudition and ability by 
Bleek. He founds his argument chiefly on the peculiar 
meaning given to <y\6oaaa by rhetoricians, namely an anti¬ 
quated expression. But such a meaning is unknown in the 
Septuagint and in the New Testament. Besides, it cannot 
be made to correspond with the phenomenon in question. 
How, on this view, could the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, 
etc., affirm that they heard the disciples speak each in his 
own lanrma^e ? Bleek himself is constrained to acknowledge 
that, “although all other passages of the New Testament in 
which this gift is mentioned might appear favourable to his 
hypothesis, yet the history of Pentecost is not so.” 1 

5. A very common opinion, maintained in a variety of 
forms, is that the gift of tongues was not an actual speech in 
foreign languages, but ecstatic utterances spoken in a high 
state of inspiration, and often destitute of intelligible mean¬ 
ing. The mind of the inspired was raised above its natural 
powers, and received impressions of new truths, or was filled 
with such joyful emotions, that the man felt it impossible to 
express in ordinary language his views and feelings, and 
hence resulted a speaking with tongues. This opinion is 
chiefly defended by an appeal to 1 Cor. xiv. But however 
much it may seem to agree with the gift of tongues there 
described, it is irreconcilable with the gift of tongues on the 
day of Pentecost. It may be that the utterances of the dis¬ 
ciples were words of praise, and in this sense ecstatic ; but 
then they were spoken in foreign tongues, and the hearers 
understood them. There is not the least intimation given 
that they were unintelligible, but the reverse. Accordingly, 

1 See Olsliausen on the Gospels and Acts , vol. iv. p. 259. 



Meyer modifies the hypothesis : he combines it with that of 
Kuinoel and the Rationalists. He supposes that the utter¬ 
ances were indeed ecstatic, and in general unintelligible; but 
that among the disciples, who were for the most part Gali¬ 
leans, there were also a few foreigners, and that they natu¬ 
rally expressed their ejaculations not in the acquired Galilean 
dialect, but in their mother tongue. He further supposes 
that Luke, in describing the phenomenon as a miraculous 
speech in foreign languages, adopted a distorted report. 1 
But this explanation is a wholly unwarrantable attack on the 
sacred text; not a solution, but a cutting of the knot—an 
attempt to get rid of the miraculous in the narrative. 

6 . A modification of this hypothesis of ecstatic utterances 
has recently been advanced by Dr. Plumptre. He does not 
think that the disciples spoke languages with which they 
were previously unacquainted; but merely in a state of 
ecstasy uttered foreign expressions of praise and joy, in 
words which they had formerly heard, and which were now 
brought vividly to their recollection. “ In all likelihood,” 
he observes, u such words as they then uttered had been 
heard by the disciples before. At every feast which they 
had ever attended, from their youth up, they must have 
been brought into contact with a crowd as varied as that 
which was present on the day of Pentecost, the pilgrims of 
each nation uttering their praises and doxologies. The 
difference was, that before the Galilean peasants had stood 
in that crowd neither hearing, nor understanding, nor re¬ 
membering what they heard, still less able to reproduce it; 
now they had the power of speaking it clearly and freely. 
The divine work would in this case take the form of a super¬ 
natural exaltation of the memory, not of imparting a miracu¬ 
lous knowledge of words never heard before.” 2 But this 
ingenious hypothesis does not recommend itself to us as the 
true solution : it is not naturally suggested by the narrative. 
The miracle is there distinctly represented as one of other 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , pp. 53, 54. The opinion of Neander is 
somewhat similar. 

2 See Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible , art. Gift of Tongues. 



tongues—the gift of speaking the languages of Parthians, 
Medes, Elamites, etc., not the mere exaltation of the memory. 

7. The only hypothesis which suits all the conditions of 
the case, is that of an actual speech in foreign and previously 
unacquired languages; a miraculous gift of tongues, so that 
the disciples were enabled to speak Persian, Arabic, Latin, 
etc. This opinion is adopted, though variously maintained, 
by Baumgarten, Olshausen, Lechler, Kahnis, Schaff, Baum- 
lein, and Wordsworth. Various objections, however, against 
this view of the subject have been advanced. 

It is considered to be inconceivable and contradictory. 
u The sudden communication,” observes Meyer, u of an 
ability to speak in foreign languages is neither logically 
possible, nor psychologically and morally conceivable, and 
we do not find the least trace of it in the apostolic epistles 
or elsewhere.” 1 So also Alford, to whose particular view 
we shall afterwards advert, remarks : u Such an endowment 
would not only be contrary to the analogy of God’s dealings, 
but, as far as I can see into the matter, self-contradictory, 
and therefore impossible.” But it is no argument against 
the reality of the miracle, that we cannot conceive how men 
should speak in foreign languages which they have never 
learned : it may have taken place, although we are utterly 
ignorant of the mode of its occurrence. The gift of tongues 
is manifestly exhibited as a miracle, and it is of the nature 
of a miracle that it cannot be explained by ordinary prin¬ 
ciples. As it is not an impossibility to learn a foreign lan¬ 
guage, so we do not see how it can be considered impossible 
and contradictory that a language should be impressed on the 
mind without previous study. Miracles frequently consist 
in the compression of much labour and time into a small 
space. As, for example, our Saviour converted water at 
once into wine ; whereas, in the natural order, water has to 
go through a variety of forms and processes before it is so 
changed. So, in the natural order, the acquirement of a 
language occupies much time and study; but, for all that we 
see, this time and study may be miraculously dispensed with. 

1 Meyer’s ApostelgescliicJite , p. 51. 



Again, it is objected that this hypothesis of speaking 
foreign languages is opposed to Acts xiv. 11. It is there 
asserted that Paul, who spoke with tongues more than all 
the Corinthian disciples (1 Cor. xiv. 18), did not under¬ 
stand the dialect of Lycaonia. Now, taking for granted 
that this is the correct meaning of the passage, it is to be 
observed that the gift of speaking in foreign languages need 
not have been permanent; it was only u as the Spirit gave 
them utterance.” Paul, for example, had the gift of heal¬ 
ing ; yet he could not exercise this gift on all occasions, for 
in his Second Epistle to Timothy he mentions that he had 
left Trophimus at Miletum sick; and in his Epistle to the 
Philippians he speaks of Epaphroditus being sick nigh unto 

But the great objection to this speaking in foreign lan¬ 
guages is, that however much it agrees with the miracle of 
Pentecost, it apparently disagrees with the description of the 
gift of tongues given by Paul in 1 Cor. xiv. There the 
speaking with tongues was unintelligible to the hearers : he 
that spoke in an unknown tongue, spoke not to men, but to 
God, for no man understood him : the man often could not 
interpret what he himself said; an interpreter was necessary 
to explain what was spoken, and sometimes there was no 
interpreter present in the assembly : the gift is compared 
with the tinkling of a cymbal, the indistinct sound of an 
instrument, and the speech of a barbarian : Paul himself 
spoke with tongues more than they all, but he says that 
he would rather speak live words with his understanding, 
that he might teach others, than ten thousand words in 
a tongue; and he forbids any to speak with tongues in 
the church, unless there be an interpreter. Now, certainly 
there does appear to be a difference between this speaking 
with tongues and that mentioned in the Acts. Both were 
spiritual gifts — supernatural manifestations; in both the 
mind of the speaker was controlled by the Spirit; both are 
described as speaking with tongues —yXcoacrais \a\eiv . But 
the speech of the disciples at Pentecost was directly intelli¬ 
gible to the hearers; whilst the speech of the Corinthians 



required the medium of an interpreter to be understood. 
The speaking at Pentecost was evidently a speaking in 
foreign languages; whilst it is not so evident that this was 
the case with the converts at Corinth. 1 

Alford attempts to reconcile these two phenomena. He 
supposes that the disciples at Pentecost were merely the 
mouthpieces of the Spirit—they spoke only as the Spirit 
gave them utterance; that they did indeed speak in foreign 
languages, but that they did not themselves understand 
what they said ; that they were moved to the utterance of 
certain sounds dictated by the Holy Spirit, but that these 
sounds were perfectly intelligible to the foreigners who 
heard them in their own languages. Or, as he expresses it: 
u I believe the event related in our text to have been a sud¬ 
den and powerful inspiration of the Holy Spirit, by which 
the disciples uttered, not of their own minds, but as mouth¬ 
pieces of the Spirit, the praises of God in various languages, 
hitherto, and possibly at the time itself, unknown.” 2 Hence 
the necessity of an interpreter to explain what was said, as 
the speaker himself was ignorant of what he uttered. Such 
a reconciliation is ingenious, and the explanation given may 
possibly apply to the gift of tongues mentioned in 1 Cor. xiv.; 
but there is nothing in the account given us in the Acts 
which would lead us to suppose that the disciples did not 
understand what they said. 

Others (Thiersch, Lechler) suppose that Acts ii. and 
1 Cor. xiv. describe phenomena which, although in many 
points similar, coming under the same category, yet have 
peculiar differences. According to them, in Acts ii. there 
was a real and actual power of speaking in foreign languages 
conferred on the disciples. They utter the praises of God, 
so that the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites understood 
them, each in his own language. Whereas in 1 Cor. xiv. 
there was no speaking in foreign languages, but a high 
state of rapture and inspiration ; an exaltation of soul; a 
state of holy ecstasy, perhaps similar to that which Paul 

1 Lange’s Bibelwerk: Apostelgeschichte , von Lecbler, p. 42. 

2 Alford’s Greek Testament , vol. ii. pp. 13, 14. 



experienced when, being caught up to the third heavens, he 
heard unspeakable things, which it is not lawful for a man 
to utter. And corresponding with this difference there is a 
difference of expression : in Acts ii. the disciples are said to 
speak with other tongues; whereas in 1 Cor. xiv. there is 
only mention of speaking with tongues. 1 According to this 
view of the subject, the gift of tongues at Pentecost was 
unique in its nature. Its purpose was not to enable the dis¬ 
ciples to address the foreign Jews in their own languages ; 
for there is no mention that they discoursed in them, but 
merely that they declared the wonderful works of God. It 
was rather designed to call attention ; to excite the spirit of 
inquiry among the multitude ; to arouse their curiosity. It 
also gave authority to the disciples : it invested the doctrines 
which they declared with all the weight of inspiration. It 
was, so to speak, the bell which called the people to wor¬ 
ship, and the credentials which God Himself gave to His 
messengers. • 


This explanation, though not wholly satisfactory, especially 
regarding the gifts of tongues in 1 Cor. xiv., seems to come 
nearest to the probable truth. The phenomenon at Pentecost 
was a miraculous indication of the arrival of the heavenly 
gift, and a manifestation of its power; and being a miracle, 
it is hardly to be expected that we shall be able to apprehend 
the modus operandi. A solution of the question in this sense 
cannot be looked for. Only this is to be remembered, that 
we must receive the Scripture as it stands; and on the one 
hand, not explain away the natural meaning of the language; 
nor, on the other, put meanings into it which it cannot bear. 

We are probably to understand the occurrence somewhat 
as follows :—When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon 
the disciples, they were endowed with the gift of tongues: 
they spoke foreign languages which they had never acquired, 
at first among themselves (Acts ii. 4). A multitude assem¬ 
bled around the house where they were : the disciples went 

1 See this difference between the phenomenon at Pentecost and the 
speaking of tongues in the Corinthian church well stated by Thiersch in 
his History of the Apostolic Church, translated by Carlyle, pp. 62, 63. 



out to them, speaking in these languages; and each foreigner, 
to his surprise, heard his own language spoken by those 
whom he knew were Galileans. It is certainly not to be 
supposed that each disciple spoke a multitude of languages 
(Bleek); but that one spoke in one language and another in 
another, so that every foreign Jew heard spoken the wonder¬ 
ful works of God u in his own tongue wherein he was born.” 
Whether the disciples actually discoursed to the multitude 
in foreign languages, or whether the words which they 
uttered were the ecstatic expressions of praise to God (ra 
fieyaXeia tov Qeov '), cannot be determined from the narrative. 

The common opinion is, that the gift of tongues was be¬ 
stowed upon the disciples to assist them in the propagation 
of the gospel. They were commissioned to preach the gospel 
to all nations; and to enable them to execute this commission, 
they were promised by our Lord the gift of new tongues 
(Mark xvi. 17); and at Pentecost, when the Spirit was 
given, this promise was fulfilled. 1 Others, however, think 
that such an opinion goes beyond the information given us 
in Scripture. The testimony of the Fathers is ambiguous. 
Irenseus speaks of those who had prophetic gifts, and spoke 
through the Spirit all kinds of languages ( jravToSaTrav ? 
\a\ovvToov hia tov UvevpaTOS (yXobcrcrais). 2 3 But with the 
exception of this testimony, until the time of Chrysostom 
there is no mention that such a power was exercised by 
the apostles. Of course, little stress can be put upon the 
tradition of Papias, mentioned by Eusebius, that Peter was 
accompanied on his travels by Mark as his interpreter; 0 but 
it shows that the primitive church did not consider the gift 
of tongues as a permanent endowment to fit the apostles for 
preaching the gospel. Nor, it may be added, was such a 
gift so necessary as it would be to missionaries in the present 
day. In the providence of God, the civilised world was 
united into one mighty empire and one language, the Greek; 

1 See this opinion ably supported by Bishop Wordsworth, The Acts 
of the Apostles , pp. 44, 45. 

2 Irenseus, adv. Hser. v. 6; Euseb. Hist. Heel. v. 7. 

3 Euseb. Hist. Heel. iii. 39. 



or at the most, two, the Greek and the Latin, formed the 
medium of communication throughout the empire. 1 In all 
the countries which Paul visited in his extensive missionary 
journeys, Greek alone sufficed. It may indeed be objected 
that the power to speak, and especially to write Greek, must 
necessarily have been miraculously conferred on the Galilean 
apostles; but there appear in their writings, especially in 
their use of Hebraisms, indications that it was in all pro¬ 
bability acquired by them according to natural laws; at least 
their speaking and writing Greek is not a proof that that 
language was miraculously conferred on them, especially 
considering that it was at this period extensively used in 
Palestine. Not only John, Peter, and James, but also 
Josephus, wrote in Greek. 2 

Various phenomena have occurred in the Christian church 
analogous to this speaking with tongues: such as the ecstatic 
prayers and prophecies of the Montanists in the second 
century, of Fox and his disciples and of the French prophets 
in the seventeenth, and especially the so-called “ unknown 
tongues” of the Irvingites in the nineteenth. These, how¬ 
ever, cannot be considered as supernatural phenomena in the 
sense of miraculous, but are mere imitations of the gift of 
tongues mentioned in Scripture; and with regard to many 
of them, although certainly not the result of imposture, were 
the effects of a contagious religious fanaticism. Certain it is, 
that in none of these instances was there an actual speaking 
of foreign languages such as occurred on the day of Pentecost. 

1 “ Aramaic, Greek, Latin, the three languages of the inscription on 
the cross, were media of intercourse throughout the empire.” “ The 
conquests of Alexander and of Rome had made men diglottic to an extent 
which has no parallel in history.” —Dr. Plumptre. 

2 See Merivale’s History of the Romans , ch. xxix. He observes': “The 
prevalence of the Greek language even in Jerusalem itself is marked by 
an interesting circumstance recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. On 
the occasion of a riot which was excited in that city through the jealousy 
which existed between the Oriental and Greek Jews, Paul addressed the 
multitude : ‘ When they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue, they 
the more kept silence ; ’ from which it appears that they would have 
listened to him, and understood him, even if he had spoken in Greek.” 



14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and 
addressed them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye dwellers in Jerusalem, be 
this known unto you, and hearken to my words : 15 For these men are 
not drunken, as ye suppose, for it is the third hour of the day. 16 But 
this is that which was spoken by the prophet: 17 “It shall be in the 
last days, saith God, that I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh ; 
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men 
shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on 
my servants, and on my handmaids, I will pour out in those days of 
my Spirit; and they shall prophesy : 19 And I shall give wonders in 

heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath ; blood, and fire, and 
vapour of smoke: 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the 
moon into blood, before the great and illustrious day of the Lord come : 
21 And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord 
shall be saved.” 22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words : Jesus the 
Nazarene, a man approved of God among you by powers, and wonders, 
and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves 
know: 23 Him, being delivered up according to the determinate 

counsel and foreknowledge of God, having crucified by the hand of law¬ 
less men, ye have slain ; 24 Whom God raised up, having loosed the 

pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden by 
it. 25 For David says with reference to Him, “ I saw the Lord always 
before me; for He is on my right hand, that I be not moved : 26 There¬ 
fore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad ; moreover also, my 
flesh shall rest in hope: 27 Because Thou wilt not leave my soul in 

Hades, nor give Thy Holy One to see corruption. 28 Thou hast made 
known to me the ways of life : Thou wilt make me full of joy with Thy 
countenance.” 29 Men and brethren, I may speak to you with freedom 
of the patriarch David, because he is both dead and buried, and his 
sepulchre is among us unto this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, 
and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit 
of his loins, one should sit on his throne ; 31 He, foreseeing this, spoke 
concerning the resurrection of Christ, that He was not left in Hades, 
neither did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus did God raise up, 
of which we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore, being by the right hand of 




God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy 
Spirit, He shed forth this which ye see and hear. 34 For David is not 
yet ascended into the heavens: but he says, “The Lord said unto my 
Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand, 35 Until I make Thy foes Thy 
footstool.” 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, 
that God made Him both Lord and Christ, even this Jesus whom ye 
have crucified. 


,' Yer. 16. ’ IcoyX • /cal is found in A, B, C, E, N, but is 
wanting in D; and is omitted by Tischendorf and Lachmann, 
surely for insufficient reasons. Yer. 23. Aafiovre 9 , D, E, 
is wanting in A, B, C, N, and is rejected by Tischendorf. 
Instead of ^eipwv, E, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Borne- 
mann read %eipo?, after A, B, C, D, N. Yer. 30. The words 
to Kara aap/ca avacrrycreiv tov Xpicrrov are wanting in A, 
B, C, N, and are rejected by Mill, Griesbach, Lachmann, 
and Tischendorf. Yer. 31. 'H ^jrvxv clvtov, found in E, is 
wanting in A, B, C 1 , D, N, and is omitted by Griesbach, 
Lachmann, Meyer, and Tischendorf. Yer. 33. Griesbach, 
Lachmann, Bornemann, and Tischendorf have omitted vvv 
before vgecs, as it is wanting in A, B, C 1 , D, N. 


Yer. 14. ^radels Se Uerpos avv rot? evSeica — But Peter , 
standing up with the eleven. The disciples were accused of 
drunkenness, and Peter commences his address by vindicat¬ 
ing them from that charge. Peter stood up with the eleven, 
in their company, and speaking in their name. As Neander 
remarks, “ Peter came forward with the rest of the eleven; 
and as the apostles spoke in the name of the whole church, 
so Peter spoke in the name of the apostles.” 1 The eleven — 
as Matthias now supplied the place of Judas. Ye men of 
Judea —native Jews. All ye dwellers in Jerusalem —foreign 
Jews and proselytes, dwellers and sojourners in Jerusalem. 
Peter would address the multitude in Aramaic, as this lan¬ 
guage would be most generally understood. 

1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 18, Bohn’s edition. 



Ver. 15. Ov 7 ap — ovtol [leOvovcriv — for these are not 
drunken . The persons referred to (ovtol) are not the apostles, 
to the exclusion of the disciples; for all were alike charged 
with drunkenness. De Wette, on the other hand, supposes 
that the disciples only are meant, and not the apostles. 
u Peter,” he observes, u defends not himself and his col¬ 
leagues, but the other disciples (ovtol) : it thus appears that 
the apostles had not the gift of tongues,—a proof that this 
speaking with tongues was a low kind of spiritual speech .” 2 
But this is an evident mistake: Peter here speaks in the 
third person, not to exclude himself and the other apostles, 
but as if he were an impartial advocate to defend his fellow- 
disciples from the accusations of the multitude. 

v Ecttl 7 dp wpa TpLTrj ttjs fj/uepa? — for it is the third hour 
of the day. The division of the day into twelve hours—a 
mere conventional division—was unknown among the Jews 
until the Babylonish captivity. The first mention of it is in 
the book of Daniel. Before that, the periods of the day were 
distinguished by natural appearances, as morning, noon-day, 
and evening. Herodotus informs us that the Babylonians 
were the first to divide the day into twelve parts. Accord¬ 
ing to the Hebrews, the civil day was reckoned from sunset 
to sunset, and the natural day from sunrise to sunset. This 
natural day was divided into twelve equal parts, and the 
length of each hour would of course vary according to the 
season of the year, being proportionally longer in summer 
and shorter in winter. The third hour, then, was about nine 
in the morning, or more correctly, the middle space between 
sunrise and noon : it was the hour of morning prayer. The 
Jews had three hours of ptayer—namely, in the morning, 
or the third hour (Acts ii. 15), when the morning sacrifice 
was offered; at noon, or the sixth hour (Acts x. 9); and in 
the evening, or the ninth hour (Acts iii. 1 , x. 30), the period 
of the evening sacrifice. Peter gives it as a reason why 
the disciples were not drunken, u because it was the third 
hour of the day.” We learn from Josephus and other 
Jewish writers, that on Sabbaths and festivals it was un- 
1 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 37. 



usual for the Jews to eat or drink until the hour of morn¬ 
ing prayer had expired (see Joseph. Vita , 54; Lightfoot’s 
Horce Hebraicce , vol. iv. p. 29). And, generally speaking, 
drunkenness was a vice which courted the shades of night: 
u They that are drunken are drunken in the night” (1 Thess 
v. 7). So that what the apostle insists upon is the extreme 
improbability of such a number of persons being drunken at 
so early a period of the day. 

Vers. 16-21. The quotation from the prophecy of Joel (in 
the Hebrew, ch. ii. 28-30; in the Septuagint, ch. iii. 1-5) is 
taken, with a few slight variations, from the Septuagint. The 
chief variations are the following : Instead of iv raU icryarais 
rjfiepcu? (ver. 17), the Septuagint has pcera ravra , in which 
it agrees with the Hebrew. The two last clauses of ver. 17 
are in the Septuagint transposed. In ver. 18 the words teal 
irpo(f)7]Tev(TovTai are added; and in ver. 19 avco and Karco 
are wanting in the Septuagint. 

Ver. 17. ’Ev rats iayarais; rjpLepais — in the last days. This 
in the Septuagint is puera ravra , after these things. Kimchi 
asserts that these two phrases signify the same thing, for he 
has this note upon the passage in Joel: u c And it shall be 
after these things’ is the same as ‘ And it shall be in the last 
days.’ ” 1 The phrase u the last days ” occurs in the Old 
Testament (Isa. ii. 2 ; Mic. iv. 1), and is a Jewish form of 
expression to denote the days of the Messiah. This era was 
so called because it was the last dispensation of religion ; 
and as the Jewish dispensation then came to an end, the 
phrase is also occasionally used to signify the last days of 
the Jewish church. Generally, however, it signifies the age 
of the Messiah, comprehending all the events that occurred 
in that age. Compare 2 Tim. iii. 1, “ In the last days 
perilous times shall come ; ” Heb. i. 2, “ God hath in these 
last days spoken unto us by His Son;” 1 John ii. 18, 
“ Little children, it is the last time.” ’E/c^eco diro rov Ilvev- 
p taro? piov—I will pour out of my Spirit: in the Hebrew it 
is, I will pour out my Spirit. Olshausen supposes that in 
the discourse of Peter a powerful but yet partial effusion of 
1 Lightfoot’s Horse Hebraic^ , vol. iv. p. 30. 


the Spirit is intended; whereas the prediction of Joel, in its 
original form, as given in the Hebrew, still remains for the 
future, when there shall be a complete effusion of the Spirit. 
But this appears far-fetched: the quotation exactly agrees 
with the Septuagint. ’Eirl 'irdaav crdp/ca, on all flesh ; that 
is, on all kinds of men, without distinction of sex—sons and 
daughters; of age—young men and old men ; and of condi¬ 
tion—servants and handmaids. Joel may have had respect 
only to Israel; but Peter here regards Israel as the people 
of God, and extends the prophecy to all believers in Christ. 
He himself had indeed at this time very imperfect views as 
to the admission of the Gentiles into the Christian church; 
but doubtless, in the intention of the Spirit, the phrase is 
without distinction of nations—Jews and Gentiles. Kal 
7 rpo(f)r)T€vcrovcriv — and they shall prophesy. All were to 
prophesy : the gift of prophecy was not to be confined to a 
few distinguished persons, as under the Old Testament dis¬ 
pensation, but was to extend to all believers (compare Jer. 
xxxi. 34). The special reference here is to the speaking 
with tongues. 'Opaaeis, visions, revelations in the day-time ; 
evvirvlois, dreams , revelations at night. These were the two 
usual modes in which God communicated His will under 
the Old Testament dispensation (Num. xii. 6). 

Ver. 18. ’ Eirl rou? 8ou\ou? pov /cal eirl to? SoiAa? pov. 
In the original Hebrew it is, upon the servants and upon the 
handmaids , that is, upon slaves. Here and in the Septuagint 
it is, upon my servants and upon my handmaids. The addi¬ 
tion of pov does not permit us to explain it of those who are 
in a servile condition, in accordance with the original text 
(Heinrichs and Kuinoel) ; for the service is here referred 
to God as the great Master. The Spirit is to be poured 
upon those who are His servants and His handmaids ; in 
other words, on all true Christians, inasmuch as they recog¬ 
nise God as their Master. 

Ver. 19. Wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth 
beneath, are here stated as what would happen in the last 
days—the portents of the dreadful calamities which would 
occur. The earthly signs are blood, fire, and vapour of 



smoke. By these we are not to understand, with Meyer, 
natural signs—bloodshedding (fire, sedition, and murder) 
and conflagration ; but rather, with De Wette, supernatural 
wonders and signs—prodigies : al/xa ) showers of blood ; nrvp, 
fiery meteors ; drylBa kclttvov , pillars of smoke rising from 
the earth. In the somewhat similar words of our Lord, 
with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, u Fearful 
sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 
xxi. 11). 

Yer. 20. The signs from heaven are: u The sun shall he 
turned into darkness , and the moon into blood; ” i.e. the light 
of the sun shall be withdrawn, and the moon shall exhibit a 
bloody appearance. The words of our Lord are similar, and 
equally strong : u Immediately after the tribulation of those 
days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give 
her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the 
powers of the heavens shall be shaken ” (Matt. xxiv. 29). 
IIplv rj iXdelv rrjv rpiepav Kvplov—before the day of the Lord 
come; i.e. before the day of Christ come. This advent of 
Christ is not to be understood of His first coming in the 
flesh, but rather of His second coming to judgment; but in 
such a manner that every infliction of judgment is to be 
regarded as a coming of Christ, the Judge. For example, He 
came in Spirit when Jerusalem was destroyed : the Roman 
soldiers were His ministers. 

Yer. 21. The prophecy concludes with a universal invita¬ 
tion : Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be 
saved. The Lord mentioned is evidently, according to the 
apostle, Christ—Jesus, the crucified and the exalted, who has 
been manifested to be both Lord and Messiah. The invita¬ 
tion is universal; there is no exception, no hindrance: all 
flesh (nrdaa crapg) is mentioned ; and whosoever is included 
under this general appellation is invited. 

Such is the exegesis of the prophecy. But the question 
is, How did Peter understand it ? And how are we to 
understand it ? What did the spirit of prophecy intend by 
it? Evidently Peter wished to show to the Jews that the 
effusion of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the 



miraculous events with which it was accompanied, were a 
fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. According to this point 
of view, u the last days ” is the present period—the age of 
the Messiah commenced; the effusion of the Spirit is the 
outpouring on the day of Pentecost; the prophesyings, the 
visions, and the dreams, are the utterances with other tongues. 
The calamities predicted—the wonders in heaven above, and 
the signs in earth beneath—were indeed as yet future; but 
they were regarded by Peter as unavoidable and impending. 
The day of the Lord was come, and vengeance was about 
to befall His enemies. 

But although the prophecy of Joel had special relation to 
the day of Pentecost, yet it was not completely fulfilled on 
that day. It embraces periods and events far distant from 
each other in time ; it is a comprehensive statement of what 
will occur in the u last days.” By many it is restricted to the 
destruction of Jerusalem ; and certainly in that great event, 
in the overthrow of the Jewish religion and polity, it received 
a striking fulfilment. Then, not only according to our 
Saviour’s prediction, but also according to Josephus, there 
were fearful sights and great signs from heaven, not inappro¬ 
priately denominated u blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke.” 
But as, according to the phraseology of our Saviour in His 
prediction of that event, there is a manifest reference to the 
day of judgment, to the end of the world, of which the 
destruction of Jerusalem was the type, so there is also a like 
reference in this similar prophecy of Joel. In short, we 
believe that not only at Pentecost, but on every great his¬ 
torical crisis, at every striking effusion of the Spirit, and at 
every convulsion among the nations, this prophecy of Joel 
receives a partial fulfilment; but that its complete fulfilment 
is yet in reserve, when the world will have nearly come to 
its close, and when the awful judgment of God—that great 
and illustrious day of the Lord—is about to take place. 

Ver. 22. ’Irjcrovv top Na^copatop — Jesus the Nazarene. 
Peter names Jesus as the Lord upon whom they shall call. 
He calls Him the Nazarene, that is, a native of Nazareth, 
not as being a term of reproach applied to Him by His 

VOL. I. Gr 



enemies (Calvin), or because sucli was the title affixed to 
the cross (Beza), but for the sake of distinction, being His 
ordinary designation among the Jews (Acts iii. 6), as Jesus 
was a common name. A man approved of God among you — 
that is, proved to be the Messiah, divinely accredited by the 
miracles He wrought; as Nicodemus justly argued: “We 
know that Thou art a teacher come from God : for no man 
can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with 
him” (John iii. 2). By powers, and wonders, and signs — 
three terms expressive of the miracles which Jesus wrought: 
powers , because they were the effects of supernatural power; 
tvonders , as being works out of the ordinary course of nature ; 
and signs, as being the credentials of Christ—the proofs that 
He was sent from God. 

Ver. 23. Tovtovtj) wpicr/ievr) . . . etcSorov — Him, being de¬ 
livered up according to the determinate counsel and foreknow¬ 
ledge of God. The apostle, in referring to the death of 
Christ, views it with respect to God and man. With respect 
to God, he declares that it was in accordance with His 
counsel and foreknowledge. (The words are in the dative 
of accordance; see Acts xv. 1: Meyer, De Wette, Winer.) 
"EkSotov — delivered up: by whom, is left undetermined; 
perhaps a reference to the treachery of Judas. The apostle 
intends that what happened to Jesus was not the mere result 
of successful wickedness, but was in full accordance with 
the fixed plan of God : that all had been previously foretold 
by the prophets in their predictions of the Messiah. 

Next follows man’s part in the transaction : hid x ei P ° ? 
dvo/ucov—by the hand of lawless men. By lawless men here 
are meant the heathen who were without the law (Bom. 
ii. 14), and particularly Pilate who condemned Christ, and 
the Boman soldiers who nailed Him to the cross. Tlpoa- 
7 ry^avres — fastened, affixed, or nailed to something : the cross 
is presupposed as known; araypp has consequently to be 
supplied. ’ AvelXare—ye have slam. Peter here charges the 
multitude with being the murderers of Jesus. But where¬ 
fore? Doubtless there were many of those foreign Jews 
who were not in Jerusalem on the dav of the crucifixion ; 


and though some then present may have joined in the cry, 
u Crucify him,” yet all were not thus guilty. Olshausen’s 
opinion, that the reason was because the crucifixion of Christ 
was the deed of the human race, inasmuch as it was the sin 
of mankind tliat brought Jesus to the cross, though doc- 
trinally true, is far-fetched. Rather Peter regards it as the 
sin of the Jewish nation, because it was the sin of their 
rulers, with the full consent and approbation of the multi¬ 
tude ; as when they exclaimed, u His blood be upon us, and 
upon our children.” 

Ver. 24. Avcras coStm? rod Oavdrov—having loosed the 
pains of death. There is considerable difficulty in the inter¬ 
pretation of this expression. Olshausen supposes that the 
word wStm? is to be taken in the sense of cords, bonds, 
snares; as u the snares of death” is translated in the Sep- 
tuagint, (johives Oavdrov (Ps. xviii. 5). Such an interpreta¬ 
tion gives a distinct meaning to the passage. Still, however, 
it is doubtful whether <Z>8lv is ever used in this sense. Meyer 
supposes that death itself is here represented as in travail, 
until the dead is raised; then these pains cease—they are 
loosed; and because God has raised up Christ, He has 
loosed the pains (birth-pangs) of death. It is, however, 
more natural to refer the pains to Jesus, than to conceive 
death itself being in pain. The meaning would seem to be, 
that death was regarded as a painful condition, because the 
body was threatened with corruption; and that consequently 
these pains were loosed when the body was raised and de¬ 
livered from corruption (Lechler). 

Vers. 25-28. This quotation is from Ps. xvi. 8-11 (xv. 
8-11 according to the Septuagint). It is taken verbatim 
from the Septuagint, and varies very slightly, and not at all 
in sense, from the Hebrew original. 

Ver. 25. Ilpoopwyyv does not signify “I foresaw,” in the 
sense of to see beforehand; but to see before oneself, to have 
a vivid view of an object; similar in sense to the Hebrew, 
u I have set the Lord always before me.” 

Ver. 26. Therefore did my heart rejoice —the heart being 
considered the seat of the will and affections. And my 



tongue was glad. Instead of my tongue , the Hebrew has my 
glory , probably a free translation in the Septuagint. More¬ 
over also , my jlesli shall rest in hope : by which the Psalmist 
expresses his hope of final deliverance; or, as applicable to 
the Messiah, and as interpreted by Peter, in hope of the 

Ver. 27. Because Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades —in 
the abode of the dead—the state of separate spirits. Nor 
give Thy Holy One to see corruption —permit Thy Holy One 
to suffer the corruption of the grave. In an historical sense, 
these words can with difficulty be referred to David, as if he 
meant that God would not suffer him to die in his present 
peril (Meyer) ; a meaning which evidently comes far short 
of the expressions employed. They must be regarded as a 
direct prophecy of the Messiah, applicable to Him alone. 

Ver. 28. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life — 
the paths which lead to life. Thou wilt fill me with joy with 
Thy countenance —in fellowship with Thee. According to the 
meaning attached to this by St. Peter, it refers to the resur¬ 
rection of the Messiah, by which God made known to Him 
the ways of life; and to His ascension to heaven, where there 
is fulness of joy in the immediate presence of God. We 
are not left to ourselves to discover the interpretation of this 
quotation from the Psalms, as Peter himself interprets it in 
the verses which follow. 

Ver. 29. ’E£bv ( sc. earl) ehreiv yera nrappycrlas irpos vya? 
—I may speak to you with freedom. By these apologetic words 
the apostle introduces what he is to say concerning David : 
he may speak with freedom, because he was to state a matter 
of fact which could not be denied. The fulfilment of the 
prophetic words in another and greater than David did not 
detract from that illustrious prophet and king. Hepl rov 
TraTpidp^ov Aa/3IS—concerning the patriarch David. David 
is here called by the honourable title of patriarch, because 
he was the father of the royal family, and because the Mes¬ 
siah was to descend from him. The name is applied in the 
New Testament to Abraham (Heb. vii. 4), and to the sons 
of Jacob (Acts vii. 8). 


Kal to fJLvr}{ui avrov . . . — and his sepulchre is among 

us until this day. David was buried in the city of David 
(1 Kings ii. 10), that is, Mount Zion ; and most of the 
Jewish kings were interred in the same sepulchre. After 
the return from Babylon, u the sepulchres of David ” were 
still pointed out (Neh. iii. 16), and doubtless repaired. 
Josephus informs us that, one thousand and three hundred 
years after the death of David, 1 his sepulchre was pillaged 
by the high priest John Hyrcanus, who took out of it three 
thousand talents, being part of the treasure which Solomon 
had lodged in it; and that after him Herod the Great opened 
another chamber, and took away a great amount of money 
(Joseph. Ant. vii. 15. 3, xiii. 8. 4). Elsewhere, however, he 
states that Herod, on opening the sepulchre, found no money, 
but furniture of gold and precious goods; and that in attempt¬ 
ing to make a more diligent search, two of his guards were 
killed by a flame which burst out upon those who went in 
(Joseph. Ant. xvi. 7. 1). The whole account certainly looks 
like an exaggeration. In the time of Hadrian the sepulchre 
of David had fallen into decay (Dion Cassius, lxix. 14). 
Jerome mentions its ruins as extant in his time. The 
edifice now shown as such is on the hill on the south side of 
Jerusalem, supposed to be Mount Zion, and is probably not 
far from the spot. 

Yers. 30, 31. In these verses we have the application of 
the prophecy to Christ. David, observes the apostle, did not 
speak of his own resurrection, seeing that he is dead and 
buried; but as a prophet, and the divinely assured ancestor 
of the Messiah, he foretold the resurrection of Christ. He 
had been divinely informed, that of the fruit of his loins one 
should sit upon his throne (Ps. cxxxii. 11) ; and with a pro¬ 
phetic view of this, recognising this heir as the Messiah, he 
spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that He should not be 
left in Hades, neither should His flesh see corruption. And 
the very same inference is drawn from this psalm by Paul: 
u Wherefore He saith in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer 

1 The date given by Josephus. The proper reckoning is about 880 



Thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after lie had 
served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, 
and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption : but He 
whom God raised again saw no corruption” (Acts xiii. 
35-37). The argument of these two apostles is obvious: 
David says, u Thou shalt not suffer Thine Holy One to see 
corruption but to David himself these words cannot apply, 
for he died and saw corruption : they must therefore apply 
to another, to the Messiah, the Son of David. 

But how did David understand these words ? Did he, 
when he uttered them, speak of himself, or of some other 
person ? It is evident from the nature of the case, and from 
the words of Peter (1 Pet. i. 10-12), that the prophets 
had only a dim apprehension of the meaning of their pro¬ 
phecies ; but still, without doubt, David had a prophetic 
knowledge of that illustrious Son of his who was to sit 
upon his throne, and did connect Him with the idea of 
the Messiah: and thus, like Abraham, though dimly, he saw 
Christ afar off. In this psalm he utters sentiments which 
can be applicable to none else than the Messiah ; and . espe¬ 
cially in the quotation which Peter next gives, he expressly 
distinguishes between himself and that illustrious Prince : 
u The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand ” 
(Ps. cx. 1). 

Ver. 32. Ov crdvres rjpieis ia/iev gbdprvpes—of which ice all are 
icitnesses. Ov may be regarded either as masculine or neuter. 
If masculine, then the translation is, whose icitnesses we are; 
if neuter, then it refers to Christ’s resurrection. This latter 
is preferable; as the apostles considered themselves to be 
especially the witnesses of His resurrection (ch. i. 22). 

Ver. 33. Tfj Select ovv tov Qeov v-^rccOel^. This has been 
variously translated. Some (Olshausen, De Wette, Hackett, 
Wordsworth) render it, exalted to the right hand of God ,—a 
sense which perhaps agrees best with what follows in ver. 34, 
but which, however, is hardly in accordance with the struc¬ 
ture of the Greek language. Meyer observes, that the con¬ 
struction of verbs of motion, with the dative instead of with 
77 -po? or et 9 , is found in classical writers only among the poets, 


though such a usage occurs in later writers ; but there is no 
undoubted instance of such a construction in the New Tes¬ 
tament. 1 The words, then, are to be rendered, exalted by 
the right hand of God (Lechler, Meyer, Winer, Alford). 
The objection of De Wette, that such a sense is inappro¬ 
priate and unmeaning, is groundless : on the contrary, it 
gives an obvious sense, that God’s mighty power is seen not 
only in the resurrection, but also in the exaltation of Christ. 
'E<~eyee tovto — He has shed forth this. Tovto is probably to 
be understood indefinitely— this thing which ye do see in the 
conduct and hear in the discourses of the disciples : so that 
Peter leaves it to the hearers themselves to infer that this 
miraculous communication was the same as the promise of 
the Spirit. 

Vers. 34, 35. This second quotation is from Ps. cx. 1 (cix. 1 
in the Septuagint). It is taken verbatim from the Septua- 
gint, which is an exact translation of the Hebrew. Our 
Lord cites the same passage as a proof that David owned 
his inferiority to the Messiah. u How doth David in spirit 
call Him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit 
Thou on my right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy 
footstool ? If David then called Him Lord, how is He his 
son?” (Matt. xxii. 43-45.) The words are a direct prophecy 
of the Messiah. They cannot apply to David, not only 
because, as St. Peter says, u David hath not yet ascended 
into the heavens,” but because David expressly distinguishes 
himself from the person spoken of, and owns Him as his 
King. This King, then, is the illustrious son of David, the 
Messiah ; and His session at the right hand of God is His 
ascension. Certainly the idea conveyed by this is, that 
Christ is made a partaker of the divine power and glory, 
which He could only be by reason of His divine nature : it 
is, however, the mediatorial throne which is here primarily 
intended, and to which He, as Lord and Christ, is exalted. 

Ver. 36. Acr^aXws ovv yivwa kItw—T herefore let all the 
house of Israel know assuredly. The conclusion of the entire 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , pp. 70, 71. See also Winer’s Grammar , 
sec. xxxi. 5. 



discourse. From the correspondence of the resurrection and 
ascension of Christ with the sure word of prophecy, the 
inference is undoubted (dcrt^aXw?) that Jesus is the Messiah. 
Kvpiov Kal Xpicrrov—Lord and Christ. Lord , the Supreme 
King; Christ , the Greek for Messiah. Peter would assert, 
as the conclusion of his whole discourse, that Jesus was that 
illustrious King and Prophet whom the Jews so eagerly 
expected. Whilst on earth He was both Lord and Christ; 
but then He was in the form of a servant: but by His 
resurrection and ascension He is openly declared to be so. 
Tovtov t ov Lrjcrovv ov vyeis icrravpdoaaTe—even this Jesus 
whom ye have crucified. So the discourse ends in the most 
emphatic manner, well fitted to pierce the hearers to the 
heart with a sense of their guilt and danger : as if the apostle 
had said, Ye have not only committed the awful crime of 
crucifying your Messiah ; but He whom you have crucified 
is now your Lord and Judge : you are helpless in His hands. 

It is to be observed on this whole discourse of Peter, 
that although he mentions the miracles of Jesus — His 
u powers and signs and wonders”—and especially the crown¬ 
ing miracle of His resurrection, yet he does not put the 
chief stress of his argument upon them. He argues not 
from miracles, but from prophecies. He proves from the 
prophecy of Joel, that the present effusion of the Spirit was 
predicted as an event that should occur in the days of the 
Messiah ; and from two passages from the Psalms, he shows 
that the risen and exalted Jesus was the Messiah, because it 
was predicted of the Messiah that He should rise from the 
dead and ascend into heaven. And the reason of this line 
of argument was because Peter’s hearers were Jews : they 
believed in the prophecies concerning the Messiah; and 
therefore the fulfilment of these prophecies in the person of 
Jesus was to them a convincing proof of His Messiahship. 
The whole discourse of Peter must, to a Jewish mind, have 
been most conclusive, and have carried home to their hearts 
the conviction, that God had made that same Jesus whom 
tliev had crucified both Lord and Christ. 




We have deferred until now the consideration of Hades, 
that place in which the Psalmist predicted the soul of the 
Messiah would not be left, and in which Peter tells us Christ 
was not left. f/ A£77? is a well known Greek term, signifying 
the invisible state, the infernal regions, the abode of the 
dead. It is derived from a, privative, and ISeiv, to see—that 
which is not, and cannot be seen. In the Septuagint it is the 
translation of the Hebrew Sheol, a word of the same 
import. According to Hebrew scholars, Sheol is derived 
from a word signifying a hollow. So also the German 
Iiolle , and the English hell , have probably a similar deri¬ 
vation. Now, however, these words have quite a definite 
meaning, signifying the place of the punishment of the 
wicked after the judgment; a meaning which it is question¬ 
able if Hades and Sheol ever bear. There is no appropriate 
word in English to express what is meant by Hades: it 
would have been perhaps better to have left it untranslated. 
In Latin, infernus is a tolerable translation. In German, 
De Wette suggests Unterwelt , and Lechler more appropriately 
renders it Todtenreich. 

The word ahr)<$ occurs eleven times in the New Testament; 
in ten places (Matt. xi. 23, xvi. 18 ; Luke x. 15, xvi. 23; 
Acts ii. 27, 31 ; Pev. i. 18, vi. 8, xx. 13, 14) it is translated 
hell, and in one place (1 Cor. 'xv. 55) grave. The trans¬ 
lation hell is peculiarly unfortunate, as the idea conveyed 
by Hades is different from the future state of punishment. 
For this another word, 7 eevva, is usually employed in the 
New r Testament. Sheol, again, is variously rendered hell and 
the grave. In some places the grave is its obvious meaning ; 
as in Gen. xlii. 38, 1 Sam. ii. 6, Ps. cxli. 7. In one place 
(Ps. ix. 17) it would seem to denote the future state of 
punishment, hell properly so called. In the New Testa¬ 
ment, however, the meaning of Hades approximates to the 
Greek idea of that word, as the state of the dead in general, 
where the righteous are happy and the wicked miserable. 



The Greeks termed the place of the blessed Elysium, and 
the abode of the miserable Tartarus, both being regions of 
Hades. In the New Testament the former word does not 
occur, Paradise being perhaps used in its stead (Luke xxiii. 47). 
The latter term, Tartarus, is however employed by St. Peter 
when he says, u God cast down the angels which sinned to 
hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved 
unto judgment” (2 Pet. ii. 4), where the word employed is 
raprapcoo-as : they are confined in Tartarus, as in a prison, 
waiting for the judgment. f/ A Sr)?, then, signifies the abode 
of the dead, the separate state : when the body is conceived 
as without the soul, it is equivalent to the grave ; and when 
the soul is conceived as without the body, it is what is termed 
the intermediate state—the state intervening between death 
and the resurrection. The souls both of the righteous and 
the wicked are in Hades, though considered as in different 
regions : the former inhabiting the region of the blessed, 
or Paradise ; the latter being confined in the dungeon of 

Hades is represented as situated in the lower parts of the 
earth. Hence the depth of Hades is contrasted with the 
height of heaven (Matt. xi. 23; Luke x. 15). It is also 
regarded as an abode ; and hence we read of the house of 
Hades, the gates of Hades (Matt. xvi. 18), and the keys of 
Hades (Pev. i. 18). It is the inseparable companion of 
death (Pev. vi. 8). And after the judgment Hades shall be 
no more: it and its companion Death shall be cast into hell 
(Pev. xx. 13, 14). In Luke xvi. 23, where it is said that the 
rich man lifted up his eyes in Hades, being in torment, the 
idea of a place of punishment is certainly intended; but 
this is Tartarus, not hell. Both Lazarus and the rich man 
were in Hades; the one in the mansions of the blessed, and 
the other in those of the wretched. 

In the passage under consideration, where it is said that 
Christ’s soul was not left in Hades—unhappily rendered in 
our version hell—the meaning is, that Plis soul was not left 
in the abode of separate spirits, even as His body did not 
remain in the grave. Some, indeed, suppose that Hades 



and the grave mean the same thing, and that by the soul of 
Christ is to be understood Himself; so that when it is said 
that u His soul was not left in Hades, neither did His flesh 
see corruption,” the same sentiment is twice expressed by 
different phrases. But, as Principal Campbell well observes, 
“we ought never to recur to tautology for the solution of 
a difficulty, unless where the ordinary application of words 
admits of no other resource.” 

It is doubtless from this passage of Scripture that the 
article in the Apostles’ Creed, “ Christ descended into hell,” 
was derived. All that can be inferred from this passage is 
that at death the soul of Christ was separated from His 
body: that whilst His body was in the grave, His soul was 
in Hades, the abode of separate spirits; or, as He Himself 
terms it, Paradise, the abode of the blessed. 1 

1 For discussions on the nature of Hades, see Smith’s Biblical 
Dictionary , art. Hell; Trench on the Parable of the Rich Man ; and 
especially Principal Campbell’s valuable dissertation. 



37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and 
said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what 
shall we do ? 11 38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized 

every one of you on the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission 
of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the 
promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as 
many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words 
he testified and exhorted, saying, Be ye saved from this perverse genera¬ 
tion. 41 Then they, having received his word, were baptized: and in 
that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 And they 
continued stedfastly in the doctrine of the apostles, and in fellowship, in 
breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: 
and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all 
who believed were together, and had all things common ; 45 And sold 

their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, as every one 
had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the 
temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did take their food in 
gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour 
with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily the 


Ver. 41. MoyieVm? after ovv, found in E, is omitted in 
A, B, C, D, N, and rejected by Tischendorf and Lachmann. 
Ver. 42. Kai before ry KXaaei is omitted in A, B, C, D, N, 
and rejected by Bornemann, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. 
Ver. 47. Tfj eKrcXrjcria, found in D, E, is wanting in A, B, 
C, X, and several versions. It is rejected by Mill, Bengel, 
Lachmann, and Alford, but is retained by Griesbach, 
Lechler, Meyer, and Tischendorf. 





Yer. 37. KaTevvyyaav rrjv /capStav—they were pierced to 
the heart. The hearers of Peter’s discourse were deeply 
affected by it. They were convinced that Jesus, whom they 
had crucified, was indeed Lord and Messiah. They felt that 
they had committed the awful crime of putting to death the 
Lord’s Anointed ; and hence they were filled with remorse. 
And they felt also that they were exposed to the divine 
wrath — that they were completely in the power of Him 
whom they had murdered; and hence they became alarmed 
under a sense of danger. Their remorse and fear, however, 
had not the effect, as in the cases of Cain and Judas, of driving 
them from God, but of causing them to make immediate 
application to Peter as the chief spokesman, and to the rest 
of the apostles, for advice. What shall we do? Plow can 
we escape the punishment to which our crime exposes us ? 
Calvin well observes: u Luke doth now declare the fruit of 
the sermon, to the end we may know that the power of the 
Holy Ghost was not only showed forth in the diversity of 
tongues, but also in the hearts of those who heard.” 

Yer. 38. Mejavorjaare — repent. The verb peravoeco is 
not to be restricted to mere sorrow for sin—repentance 
in the sense of contrition; but it imports a change of 
views, mind, and purpose, and a consequent change of dis¬ 
position— repentance in the sense of conversion. Here 
Peter’s hearers are required to change their views concern¬ 
ing Jesus. From regarding Him as an impostor, a false 
Christ, they were now to believe on Him as the true 
Messiah, and to submit themselves to Him as their Lord 
and King. With this change in their views, there would 
be a corresponding change in their feelings. Meravoyaare , 
then, denotes a change in an ethical sense, as the immediate 
moral condition of their baptism ; not, as the Roman Catho¬ 
lics in the Douay version translate it, from dogmatic views, 
do penance ,—a meaning which it can never bear. 

Kal paTTnaO^rw—and be baptized. The rite of baptism 
is here supposed as known. The Jews were accustomed to 



baptize proselytes and their children, so that it was not to 
them a new institution. Besides, John the Baptist seems 
to have created a considerable sensation in Judea. And 
although Jesus Himself did not baptize, yet His disciples 
baptized under His direction. This is the first instance 
recorded of the performance of Christian baptism. Peter’s 
hearers were exhorted not only to repent, but to submit to 
the ordinance of baptism as the initiatory rite of the Chris¬ 
tian dispensation. They must make a public profession of 
their belief in Jesus as the Messiah, as an evidence of the 
reality and sincerity of their repentance. 

’’Ettl tw ovo/uitl ’ Irjcrov Xptarov — on the name of Jesus 
Christ , i.e. on the ground of the name of Jesus the Messiah, 
so that their belief in Jesus as the Messiah was the ground 
on which they were to be baptized. This is the only place 
where to be baptized on the name (eVl rco ovofian) of Christ 
occurs. Elsewhere it is u into the name (et? to ovo/aa) of the 
Lord Jesus ” (ch. viii. 16, xix. 5) ; that is, into a profession of 
the religion of Jesus—into a belief of the doctrines which He 
taught. So also “in the name (ev tw ovo/iarii) of the Lord” 
(ch. x. 68) occurs. Whether the express words of the insti¬ 
tution (Matt, xxviii. 19) were employed, we are not informed ; 
most probably they were, as being given directly by Christ: 
all that we are here informed, is the ground on which the 
converts were baptized. 

Els cl(f)eaa> a/iapTicov—in order to the remission of sins. 
The end or design of their baptism : in order that their 
guilt in putting to death their Messiah might be forgiven. 
This may be regarded as the negative side of the blessing. 
The positive side is, that they might receive the gift of the 
Holy Ghost—that the promise foretold by the prophet Joel 
might be fulfilled in their experience. 

Ver. 39. 'Tpdv <ydp ecrriv i) errayyeXLa—for the 'promise is to 
you. The promise here referred to is the well-known promise 
of the Holy Ghost; that promise which Joel predicted as 
the characteristic of the days of the Messiah, and which our 
Lord designated as the promise of the Father (Acts i. 4). 
It refers to the miraculous gifts which were then conferred 



on the early church ; but certainly it also includes the sancti¬ 
fying influences of the Spirit. 

Kal tols t6kvol<; v/jlwv — and to your children : either to your 
little ones (Alford), or to your posterity (Hackett). The 
promise not only embraces and refers to those Israelites who 
are now present, but it stretches itself to the future—to the 
posterity of Israel. By the rite of circumcision, the children 
of the Israelites were included in the covenant: this privilege 
is not done away with by Christianity, but on the contrary 
confirmed—the children are included in the promise. 

Kal irdcn toc? et? ya/cpav—and to all that are afar off. 

It is a matter of dispute who are here intended. Baum- 
garten and Meyer refer it to place—all those who are ~. 
situated at a distance; that is, to all the members of the 
Jewish nation who neither dwell here at Jerusalem, nor 
are now present as pilgrims to the feast, both Hebrews and 
Hellenists. 1 Hence, according to this opinion, the Jews of 
the dispersion are meant. But they are already obviously 
included in the promise, as being Jews; and, besides, were 
now represented by Jews being present out of every nation 
under heaven (Acts ii. 5). Accordingly Beza and others 
refer it to time—to all those who are at a distance in point 
of time. According to this, the meaning would be: The 
promise is not only to you, but also to your remotest pos¬ 
terity. But this idea is already included in the expression 
“to your children.” Most (Calvin, De Wette, Bengel, 
Kuinoel, Lechler, Lange, Alford) refer the expression to 
the Gentiles. According to this, Peter affirms that the pro¬ 
mise is not confined to the Jews and their descendants, but 
that it also extends to the Gentiles. The expression afar off 
is used, both in the Old and in the New Testament, to re¬ 
present the Gentiles. Thus Zechariah says: u They that 
are afar off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord” 
(Zech. vi. 15) ; and Paul uses a similar expression, when, 
addressing his Gentile converts—those who were in times 
past Gentiles in the flesh—he says, “ Now, in Christ Jesus, 
ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 74. 



of Christ” (Eph. ii. 11-13). The great objection to this 
view is, that Peter was as yet ignorant of the admission of 
the Gentiles into the Christian church, and that he required 
a special revelation to remove his prejudices (Acts x .). 1 
But to this it may be answered, that Peter’s ignorance was 
not concerning the fact, but concerning the mode, of the 
admission of the Gentiles. That the Gentiles were to be 
received into the church was already revealed in the Old 
Testament, and could not have been unknown to Peter. 
Indeed, Christ Himself had commanded the apostles to 
preach the gospel to all nations. Peter, then, did not doubt 
that the Gentiles would become Christians, but he supposed 
that they would become so through the medium of the 
Jewish religion : as yet, he knew nothing of the abrogation 
of Judaism. 

Ver. 40. XwOrjre cnro t5? 7 eveas tz}? ctkoXlcls TavTrjs—Be 
ye saved from this perverse generation. Peter here exhorts 
them to save themselves from that wicked Jewish gene¬ 
ration which was doomed to destruction—to separate them¬ 
selves from it by repentance and baptism. ^/coXio?, crooked , 
as opposed to straight (Luke iii. 5) ; and so rendered with a 
moral reference in Phil. ii. 15 : a in the midst of a crooked 
(o-koXlclT) and perverse nation.” Hence perverse or wicked. 
The phrase is probably borrowed from Deut. xxxii. 5 : u a 
perverse and crooked generationin the Septuagint, 7 evea 
cr/coXid KCLi hieaTpaygevr]. 

Ver. 41. 01 pev ovv dirohe^dpevot . . . eft air read yean — 
Then they , having received his word , were baptized. On the 
same day in which they believed—during the course of it— 
the sacrament of baptism was administered to three thousand. 
This must necessarily have been by sprinkling, and not by 
immersion—when we consider the number baptized, and the 
scanty supply of water which then was at Jerusalem. Baptism 
by immersion of so great a number, and in so short a space 
of time, could not have been administered without the con¬ 
sent of the Jewish rulers, which we may be perfectly certain 
would not have been obtained. It is also to be observed that 
1 See Davidson’s New Introduction to the New Testament , vol. ii. p. 227. 



baptism was administered to this multitude without any pre¬ 
vious instruction : all that was required of them was a pro¬ 
fession of their repentance, and of .their belief in Jesus as 
the Messiah : instruction in the nature of Christianity did 
not precede baptism, but followed it. Hence, as Olshausen 
observes, u we may see that it was not dogmas (as a pre¬ 
paration for baptism) upon which the apostles laid stress, but 
the disposition and bent of the mind.” 

Wv^al &)<xel TpLa^iXtac — about three thousand souls. 
From the great number of those converted, w T e must sup¬ 
pose either that Peter did not merely preach a single sermon, 
but addressed several groups; or, what is more probable, 
that whilst Peter was preaching, the other apostles and dis¬ 
ciples were engaged in the same duty, with the same happy 

Yer. 42. In this verse we have the rudiments or outlines 
of the worship of the primitive and apostolic church. There 
are four points mentioned, and each may be considered as a 
distinct act of worship—the apostolic doctrine, fellowship, 
breaking of bread, and prayers. 

Tfj hiSa^f) tcov diroGToXcov—in the doctrine of the apostles. 
That is, the disciples, or perhaps specially, the newly con¬ 
verted, diligently attended to the instructions of the apostles. 
This hiha'xfj would consist chiefly in the correspondence of 
the life and death of Jesus with the prophecies concerning 
the Messiah in the Old Testament; and in the peculiar doc¬ 
trines of Christianity, so far as they were at this time revealed 
to the apostles. That after this time the apostles themselves 
made a further progress in. doctrine, appears from the new 
views which they received in regard to the admission of the 
Gentiles into the Christian church, and to the abolition of 
the Jewish rites and ceremonies. 

Kal tt) KOLvwvla—and in fellowship. The precise idea to 
be attached to this term has been much disputed. Some 
(Pearson, Mede) refer it to what follows, and conjoin it 
with the breaking of bread, either in communion , namely the 
breaking of bread; or in communion of the breaking of bread. 
The Vulgate gives the last sense— in communicatione frac- 

VOL. I. H 



tionis pants. The spuriousness of /cat before t fj /cXacrec 
prevents us adopting the first meaning; and the structure of 
the Greek language will hardly permit us to accept the 
second. Others suppose that the communion itself, the 
Lord’s Supper, is intended ; but this peculiar sense of the 
word KOivcovia does not seem to have been employed until 
the fourth century, though certainly suggested by 1 Cor. 
x. 16. Most biblical critics (Olshausen, Kuinoel, Baum- 
garten, Lechler) understand by it liberality to the poor; as 
the word frequently signifies communication to others, distri¬ 
bution. But to this Meyer objects that this peculiar sense 
requires to be indicated by a special clause, or to be un¬ 
doubtedly inferred from the context, as in Bom. xv. 26, 
Heb. xiii. 16; that kolvcovlu does not in itself signify com¬ 
munication but communio; and that it is only from the con¬ 
text that the idea of liberality instead of fellowship can be 
inferred, which is not here the case . 1 Neander understands 
it of the social intercourse which the disciples had with one 
another,—a meaning which the word fully bears. The objec¬ 
tion, however, to this is, that the word is here evidently used 
in a religious sense, as an act of worship. We therefore agree 
with Meyer, De Wette, and Bengel in referring it to the 
religious fellowship which the disciples had with each other. 
The word is similarly employed in Phil. i. 5, where the 
apostle renders thanks to God on behalf of the Philippians 
for their fellowship in the gospel. 

Tfj /cXdcrec t ov dprov—in breaking of bread. The inter¬ 
pretation of this clause is still more difficult. The common 
opinion is, that the Lord’s Supper is meant either by itself, 
or accompanied by the Agapge, or love-feasts. The phrase 
occurs several times in the New Testament. Thus it is said 
that Christ manifested Himself to the disciples at Emmaus in 
u breaking of bread” (Luke xxiv. 35), where certainly there 
is no reference to the Lord’s Supper. In ver. 46 of our 
chapter, it is said that the disciples broke bread from house 
to house ; where the idea conveyed must be the same as in 
the verse under consideration. In Acts xx. 7, 11, it is said 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 75. 



that the disciples came together to break bread, and that they 
broke bread, and ate; where, from the context, the phrase 
evidently denotes some act of Christian worship. And 
Paul, in referring to the Lord’s Supper, uses the expression 
u the bread which we break” (1 Cor. x. 16).—Here the 
phrase denotes some act of Christian worship, as in Acts xx. 
7, 11. Some (Doddridge, Grotius) suppose that it means 
that the disciples took their meals in common, and that this 
was done in a religious spirit; that there is no reference 
here to the Eucharist, but only to feasts similar to the 
Agapae. Others yDe Wette, Olshausen, Meyer, Hackett) 
suppose that in the apostolic church, the Agapae were ac¬ 
companied by the celebration of the Eucharist, after the 
example of the last supper of our Lord ; and that, accord- 
ingly, the phrase u breaking of bread ” does not mean the 
Agapse or the Lord’s Supper exclusively, but both con¬ 
joined. And certainly from the statements of Paul, in 
reference to the manner in which the Lord’s Supper was 
celebrated in the church of Corinth, there seems to be 
ground for this supposition. This, however, would infer 
that the first disciples daily partook of the Lord’s Supper 
(ver. 46), which appears extraordinary according to our 
views of the ordinance. 

In most Christian churches of our day there is nothing 
resembling the love-feasts ( 'a^airai ) of the early Christians. 
That there were such feasts in the apostolic times is un¬ 
doubted. They are directly mentioned in the Epistle of 
Jude (Jude 12), and most probably alluded to by Peter 
(2 Pet. ii. 13). It would appear that the members of the 
Christian church partook of their food in common, probably 
on the first day of the week (Acts xx. 7), when the rich 
brought provisions for the entertainment of their poorer 
brethren ; and that the feast was either preceded or con¬ 
cluded by the celebration of the Eucharist. A description 
of the Agapae is furnished to us by Tertullian. u Our 
feast,” he says, u shows its character by its name ; it bears 
the Greek name of love : and however great may be the 
cost of it, still it is gain to be at cost in the name of piety, 



for by this refreshment we make all the poor happy. No 
one sits down at the table till prayer has first been offered 
to God; we eat as much as hunger requires, we drink no 
more than consists with sobriety: while we satisfy our 
appetites, we bear in mind that the night is to be con¬ 
secrated to the worship of God. The supper being ended, 
and all having washed their hands, lights are brought in, 
and every one is invited to sing, either from Holy Scripture 
or from the promptings of his own spirit, some song of 
praise to God for the common edification.” 1 It was the 
abuse of the Agapm that gave rise to those extraordinary 
disorders that prevailed in the Corinthian church at the - 
celebration of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. xi. 20-22). And 
in consequence of frequent abuse, the Agapae were forbidden 
by the Council of Laodicea (a.d. 320) and other ecclesias¬ 
tical councils to be held in churches, so that they gradually 
fell into disuse. 

Kal tclls 'jrpocrev'xcus—and in 'prayers. This fourth par¬ 
ticular requires no explanation. Prayers, probably includ¬ 
ing praise, are an essential part of worship. Meyer observes 
that the plural may denote different kinds of prayers, which 
were partly new Christian prayers restricted to no forms, 
and partly the Psalms and the ordinary Jewish prayers, 
especially those which referred to the Messiah and His 

Ver. 43. We have here the impression which was pro¬ 
duced upon those who did not become believers. A sense 
of fear came upon them : though not actually converted, 
they were impressed with a reverential respect toward the 
disciples. And this would be confirmed and deepened by 
what is related concerning the activity of the apostles : and 
many wonders and signs were done by the apostles —probably 
miracles of healing were performed by them. 

Ver. 44. ’Errl to avro — together. This does not refer 

merely to unanimity of spirit, but intimates that they met or 
assembled together. The vast number of the disciples is no 
objection to this meaning: for (1) many of the newly con- 
1 Neander's Church History , Bohn’s edition, vol. i. p. 451. 



verted might have been foreign Jews, pilgrims to the feast, 
who would soon return to their native countries; and (2) the 
words do not necessarily imply that they all met at the same 
time and in the same place: on the contrary, it would seem 
that there were several places of meeting in the city (ver. 
46) ; though perhaps there was one special place—the well- 
known upper room, to which the disciples resorted after the 
ascension, and where they were assembled when the Holy 
Ghost was given (ch. i. 15, ii. 1). 

Vers. 44, 45. In these verses the community of goods is 
mentioned. We, however, defer the consideration of its 
nature until in the course of our exposition we come to ch. 
iv. 34-37, where it is more particularly described. Here 
it is stated that the disciples had all things common, that 
is, that they had a common store or fund; and that they 
sold their possessions (fCTijyara, landed property) and goods 
(vTrdptjei?, moveables), and delivered the proceeds to all, as 
every one had need. Such Christian liberality as was here 
displayed would be peculiarly seasonable, as probably several 
of the foreign Jews would wish to remain for some time 
longer in Jerusalem, in order to receive further instruction ; 
and as perhaps some of the converts might have alienated 
the affections of those upon whom they were dependent for 
support. Whatever might have been the extent of this 
community of goods, it was a remarkable consequence of the 
beneficial influence of the effusion of the Spirit upon the 
minds of men. 

Ver. 46. Kad ’ rpiepav re . . . iv to 3 iepw—and they , con¬ 
tinuing daily with one accord in the temple. The Christians 
did not forsake the services of the temple. As Luke in his 
Gospel tells us that after the ascension of Christ u they w 7 ere 
continually in the temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 
xxiv. 53), so in his apostolic history he asserts the same 
fact. In this they followed the example of their Master. 
The time had not yet arrived when they should entirely 
separate themselves from the old worship of the sanctuary. 
Although Christians, they were still Jews : they performed 
the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish religion, and were 



regular in their attendance in the temple at the stated hours 
of public prayer. 

Kar oIkov — from house to house . Along with this worship 
of God in the temple, they had also a peculiar worship 
among themselves. Kar olrcov is here contrasted with iv r<p 
iepw: it may either signify in the house (De Wette, Meyer,/ 
Wordsworth), or from house to house (Robinson). (Compare 
Luke viii. 1; Acts xv. 21 ; Tit. i. 5.) As the number of the 
disciples had greatly increased, they could not all meet in 
the same house ; and therefore it is probable that they had 
meetings in several houses. Besides, each family would give 
entertainments ( aycnrai ) to their brethren, and especially to 
those who were sojourners at Jerusalem. 

Mere\dp/3avov rpofii'p—did eat their food with gladness 
and singleness of heart. Thus they were so actuated by the 
new life which the Holy Spirit infused within them, that 
their most ordinary actions were converted into religious 
exercises : their meals became feasts of love; gladness of 
spirit and simplicity of disposition, the moral virtues of God’s 
children, imparted a relish even to their daily bread. 

Ver. 47. Alvovvres rov Qeov — praising God: descriptive 
not only of the manner in which they partook their food, 
but of their whole religious spirit, which expressed itself in 
hymns of praise and thanksgiving. ’'.E^orre? x^P iV — having 
favour with all the people. Thus God, in His providence, 
for a time protected His infant church: He secured for it 
the popular favour; the storms of persecution had not yet 

Xwtypevovs — the saved. Undoubtedly not, as in the 
authorized version, such as should he saved: for this would 
require the verb to be in the future— acoOgcropevov^. And 
vet it is remarkable that this false translation should have 
been adopted by all the early English versions, except that 
of Wickliff. This could not have arisen from any doctrinal 
interest in support of Calvinism, as even the Roman Catholic 
version has the same translation. The word is a present or 
imperfect participle, and must be rendered the saved 7 or those 
who were being saved. So it is correctly translated in Luther’s 



version. Christians are elsewhere so styled: “The preach¬ 
ing of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto 
us which are saved (to?? (jcofo/^eTot?) it is the power of God’ 1 
(1 Cor. i. 8). Salvation is not something entirely future, 
but something present; a blessing which has commenced ; 
a process which is going on in the souls of believers. 

Tfj eKfcXvjo-La—to the church. This important word here 
occurs for the first time in Luke’s apostolic history. (See 
critical note.) Its literal meaning is an assembly, without . 
any relation to the purpose of meeting (Acts xix. 32). The 
word, however, soon became appropriated as a Christian 
term to denote an assembly of Christians—the Christian 
community. Here it evidently denotes the Christian circle, 
the communion of the disciples of Christ. By a natural _ 
transition, it came to denote the house in which the assembly* 
met; though perhaps there is no decided example of this use 
of the term in the New Testament. (See, however, Matt, 
xvi. 18, where the church is compared to a building.) 


THE FIRST MIRACLE.— Acts hi. 1-26. 

1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour 
of prayer, namely the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man, who was lame 
from his mother’s womb, was carried, whom they placed daily at the 
gate of the temple called Beautiful, to ask alms of them who entered 
into the temple ; 3 Who, seeing Peter and John about to enter into the 
temple, asked alms. 4 But Peter, looking intently at him, with John, 
said, Look on us. 5 And he gave heed to them, expecting to receive 
something from them. 6 But Peter said, Silver and gold I have not; 
but what I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, 
arise and walk. 7 And having taken him by the right hand, he raised 
him up : and immediately his feet and ankles were strengthened. 8 And 
he, leaping up, stood, and walked, and entered with them into the 
temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people 
saw him walking and praising God. 10 And they knew him, that this 
was he who sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple : and they 
were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened to 
him. 11 And as he held Peter and John, all the people ran together to 
them to the porch called Solomon’s, greatly astonished. 12 And when 
Peter saw it, he answered the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye 
at him ? or why look ye so intently on us, as if by our own power or 
piety we had made him to walk? 13 The God of Abraham, and Isaac, 
and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus ; 
whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when 
he had decided to release Him. 14 But ye denied the holy and just 
One, and desired a man, a murderer, to be granted to you; 15 And 

ye killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which 
we are witnesses. 16 And His name, on account of faith in His name, 
has made this man strong, whom ye see and know ; and the faith which 
is through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of 
you all. 17 And now, brethren, I know that in ignorance ye did it, as 
did also your rulers. 18 But God thus fulfilled what He announced 
before by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer. 
19 Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted 
out, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the 
Lord ; 20 And that He may send Christ Jesus, who was appointed for 




yon : 21 Whom heaven must receive until the times of the restoration 

of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets 
from the beginning. 22 Moses said, A Prophet will the Lord your God 
raise up unto you from your brethren, like unto me : Him shall ye hear 
in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you. 23 And it shall be, 
that every soul who will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from 
among the people. 24 And all the prophets from Samuel, and those 
who followed, as many as have spoken, also foretold these days. 25 Ye 
are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with 
our fathers, saying to Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the families of 
the earth be blessed. 26 Unto you first, God, having raised up His 
Servant, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from 
your iniquities. 


Yer. 11. The words tov laOevTos %co\ov are wanting in 

A, B, C, E, N. They were probably inserted instead of 
avjov 1 as being the commencement of a church lesson. 
They are omitted by Tischendorf and Lachmann. Yer. 18. 
Bengel, Lachmann, and Tischendorf, on the authority of 

B, C, D, E, and many cursive MSS., have placed avrov 
after XpLcrrov , and not after 7 rpo^yrjTwv, Yer. 20. Instead 
of 7rpoiceKr)pv<yfi€vov , Griesbach, Tischendorf, and Meyer 
read 7 rpotceyeipiapievov^ after A, B, C, D, E, N. Yer. 22. The 
words 7 ap 7 rpo? tou? Trarepas are wanting in A, B, C, N, 
and are rejected by Lachmann and Tischendorf. Yer. 26. 
’Irjcrovv after aurov , found in A, and omitted by B, C, D, E, X, 
is considered by Tischendorf an addition not sufficiently at¬ 


Yer. 1 . There is no indication of the time when the event 
recorded in this chapter took place : probably it was not 
long after Pentecost, as the activity of the apostles would 
soon display itself. The connection of the narrative with 
what precedes appears to be this : the historian had men¬ 
tioned that many wonders and signs were done by the apostles 
(Acts ii. 43) ; and of these he now adduces a remarkable 


ITeVpo? /cal ’Iwavvijs—Peter and John. These two apostles, 
so dissimilar in character—the one being impulsive, and the 
other calm and contemplative—are often mentioned as being 
together. They were sent by Christ to make preparations 
for the last passover ; they were most probably both present 
in the hall of Caiaphas ; they ran together to the sepulchre ; 
they followed Christ, after His manifestation at the sea of 
Tiberias ; now, here, they go in company to the temple ; 
and afterwards they were sent forth by the church to con¬ 
firm the converts in Samaria. u Everywhere,” says St. 
Chrysostom, u we find these two apostles in great harmony 
together.” 1 

’ Ave(3aivov els to lepov—icent up into the temple. The 
temple built by Solomon oh Mount Moriah had been com¬ 
pletely destroyed by the Babylonians. Probably the only 
remnant of it was the great embankment, by which Solomon 
extended the eastern part of the mount. On the return of 
the Jews from captivity a second temple was built, but far 
inferior to the first in magnificence. Herod the Great, in 
the eighteenth year of his reign, commenced the restoration 
of the temple, and so embellished and almost entirely rebuilt 
it, that it might well be regarded as a third temple. The 
Herodian temple, from the descriptions which have come 
down to us, was in all probability not inferior to the temple of 
Solomon: it was one of the grandest edifices then in the world. 
The restoration of what was strictly the temple only occupied 
a year and a half ; 2 but eight years were spent in completing 
the cloisters with their gorgeous pillars and cedar roofs, and 
the open courts with their tesselated work. Afterwards the 
successors of Herod continued, with interruptions, to adorn 
the temple until the commencement of the Jewish war. 
Hence, although properly speaking only ten years were spent 
in the building, yet, as the improvements continued, the 
Jews, reckoning from the time when Herod commenced the 
work, said, u Forty and six years was this temple in building” 
(John ii. 20). 

We would form an erroneous notion of the temple, if we 

1 Chrysostom on the Acts, Horn. viii. 2 Joseph. Ant. xv. 11. 6. 



conceived it similar to any of our cathedrals. Perhaps its 
most magnificent part was not the temple proper, but its 
cloisters and courts. We must conceive a series of terraces, 
rising one above another, on the highest of which the temple 
was placed. The entire space occupied was a square, a fur¬ 
long on each side, so that its circumference would be about 
half a mile. 1 The outer court, commonlv called the court of 
the Gentiles, was the most magnificent of all. It was enclosed 
with a lofty wall, and surrounded the temple. On each side 
there were porches or cloisters, with Corinthian pillars of 
white marble and roofs of cedar. “ The pillars,” observes 
Josephus, “were each of them of one entire stone, and that 
stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with 
cedar curiously engraven. The natural magnificence and 
excellent polish and the harmony of the joints in these clois¬ 
ters afforded a prospect which was very remarkable.” 2 On 
three sides there were two rows of pillars ; but on the south 
side, called after Herod u the royal porch,” there were four 
rows. The open court was inlaid with stones of various 
colours. Around this court was a stone balustrade about 
four and a half feet high, on which were pillars at intervals 
with Latin and Greek inscriptions, declaring that beyond 
this no Gentile was permitted to pass. 

A flight of fourteen steps led from the outer to the inner 
court. This was a square, and was divided into several 
terraces, which rose above one another in a westerly direc¬ 
tion ; the temple itself being situated not in the centre of 
the square, but toward its western extremity. The first 
terrace constituted the “ court of the women,” so called not 
because it was the space allotted exclusively to the women, 
but because they were not permitted to advance farther. 
This court had also cloisters supported by very fine and 
large pillars : there was, however, only a single row of them, 
and they were inferior in size to those of the outer court. 
Five, or according to some fifteen, steps farther led to the 
“ court of the Israelites.” This again was separated by a 

1 Joseph. Ant. xv. 11. 3; Winer’s Worterlmdi —Tempel. 

2 Joseph. Bell. v. 5. 2. 


low wall from a still higher court, called the u court of the 
priests.” This last court surrounded the temple on every 
side, and led to it by a flight of twelve steps. 

The temple itself was comparatively of small dimensions, 
being about 150 feet long, and at the vestibule 150 feet 
broad, but only 90 feet at the back. 1 There is a diversity 
of opinion as to its height: Josephus states it at 150 feet. 
It was built of large blocks of white marble, and its front 
was covered with plates of gold. It was divided into three 
parts. The vestibule, which was sixty feet wider than any 
other part of the house, appears to have been partially open : 
Josephus says that 11 its gate was without doors, for it repre¬ 
sented the universal visibility of heaven.” The Holy Place 
was separated from it by a golden door, before which hung 
a richly embroidered curtain. Beyond this there was a 
second curtain or veil, screening from the view of all the 
“ Holy of Holies,” into which the high priest alone entered 
once a year. It appears also, that besides these three com¬ 
partments, there were rooms on each side of the temple. 
The appearance of the building to a stranger viewing it 
from the Mount of Olives, is thus described in the well- 
known passage of Josephus: “The outward face of the 
temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to sur¬ 
prise either men’s minds or their eyes; for it was covered 
over with plates of gold, which at the first rising of the sun 
reflected back such a splendour as made those who forced 
themselves to look upon it to turn away their eyes, just as 
they would have done at the sun’s rays. This temple ap¬ 
peared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a 
mountain covered with snow; for those parts of it that were 
not gilt were exceeding white” 2 (Joseph. Bell . v. 5. 6). 

\E 7 rl tt/v wpav ri}9 7 rpoaev'xfjs ttjv evvdrrjv—at the hour of 
prayer , namely the ninth . For the hours of prayer, see note 
to Acts ii. 15. The ninth hour was about three in the after- 

1 Joseph. Bell. Jud. v. 5. 4. 

2 For descriptions of the temple and its courts, see Conybeare and 
Howson’s St. Paul , Smith’s Biblical Dictionary, Winer’s biblisches Wor- 
terbuch , and especially Josephus’ Ant. xv. 11, and Jud. Bell. v. 5. 



noon, or, more exactly, the middle space between noon and 

Ver. 2.iTpo? jpv Ovpav .. . 'flpalav—at the gate of the temple 
called Beautiful. It is a matter of dispute what particular 
gate is here alluded to. Our information concerning the 
gates of the temple, both from Josephus and the Talmud, is 
defective : nor is there any of the gates described which has 
the name of Beautiful. Josephus, however, informs us that 
there was one of the gates which excelled all others in mag¬ 
nificence and beauty. It was made of Corinthian brass, and 
hence called the Corinthian gate. u Nine of the gates,” he 
observes, u were on every side covered over with gold and 
silver, as well as their side posts and lintels; but there was 
one gate that was without the holy house, which was of 
Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those which were only 
covered over with silver and gold. Its height was fifty cubits, 
and its doors were forty cubits ; and it was adorned after 
a most costly manner, as having much richer and thicker 
plates of silver and gold than upon the others” (Joseph. 
Bell. v. 5. 3). In all probability this was the gate which 
received the appropriate name of Beautiful. It is, however, 
doubtful to what gate Josephus alludes. The general opinion 
is that it is the inner gate, called in the Talmud u Nicanor,” 
which led from the outer into the inner court. This is 
certainly the gate mentioned by Josephus, when he says: 
a Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner temple was of 
brass, and vastly heavy, and could be with difficulty shut 
by twenty men, but it opened of its own accord about the 
sixth hour of the night ” (Joseph. Bell. vi. 5. 3). Others, 
again (Bengel, Olshausen, Lange), suppose that the Corin¬ 
thian gate of Josephus was an outer gate to the east of the 
court of the Gentiles, in the neighbourhood of Solomon’s 
porch, elsewhere called the gate Shushan. It is argued that 
the beggar would take his place at an outer and not at an 
inner gate, because all would enter by it; and it is expressly 
said that Peter and John were about to enter into the temple. 
It is, however, probable that there would be several beggars 
at the different gates of the temple. Lightfoot supposes that 



it was the gate Hulda, situated to the west of the court of 
the Gentiles. He derives Hulda from a word signifying 
time, and translates copaiav (from wpa , an hour) porta tem- 
pestiva , the gate of time. We learn from Martial that 
beggars sat at the gates of heathen temples. Chrysostom 
recommends the practice as regards Christian churches. 

Vers. 3-5. As Peter and John were about to enter the 
temple—either into the outer court by the gate Shushan, or 
more probably into the inner court by the gate Nicanor—• 
they encountered a lame beggar sitting at the gate, who 
asked alms of them. Peter—compassionating his miserable 
condition, and doubtless moved by a divine impulse, which 
intimated to him that the divine energy was about to be 
displayed by the illustrious miracle to be wrought by his 
means—looked intently at him, and said, u Look on us;” 
thereby seeking to arouse his attention, so that the cure 
which he was about to confer on his body might benefit his 
soul. The lame man, however, did not expect anything 
extraordinary: all that he hoped for was something in the 
way of alms. 

Ver. 6. ’Ev tco ovopban I. X .—in the name of Jesus Christ. 
That is, in virtue of the name; as that which is the efficient 
cause of the miracle; as that by the power of which the 
lame man was to arise and walk. The difference in the 
manner in which Christ wrought His miracles, and the 
apostles performed theirs, is here observable. The apostles 
performed their miracles through Christ, in virtue of His 
name and authority. It was in the name of Jesus of 
Nazareth, as the Messiah, that this miracle was performed. 
They were the mere instruments; He was the efficient 
agent. Christ, on the other hand, performed His miracles 
in IXis own name and on His own authority. He wrought 
independently. His language was that of omnipotence; 
theirs was that of faith in Him. He said, u I say unto you, 
Arisethey said, “ In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, 
rise up and walk.” He was the Messiah, the Son; they 
were the servants of the household. 

Vers. 7, 8. From these verses we learn the greatness and 



the perfection of the miracle. The man had been lame 
from his mother’s womb ; his lameness was not caused by 
some disease which might be cured, but arose from a defect 
of nature; he never had walked; he had to be carried to 
the Beautiful gate of the temple; he was above forty years 
of age (ch. iv. 22). He was a well-known character; there 
could be no deception in his lameness. The miracle was 
publicly performed: it was not wrought in the closet, but at 
one of the chief entrances to the temple. Ac fiacrecs are 
here the feet , as the instruments of walking: so Wisdom 
xiii. 18; Joseph. Ant. vii. 5. 5. The word literally signifies-* 
a step , pace. Td acpvpd, the ankles , here added as showing 
wherein the lameness of the man consisted. He leaped and 
walked as an evidence of his joy and exuberance of spirits; 
certainly not, as Bloomfield strangely imagines, at first from 
ignorance how to walk, by which his essays would be rather 
leaping than walking. Thiess imagines that the beggar only 
pretended to be lame, and that, frightened by the severe 
rebuke of Peter, he rose up and walked, and that afterwards, 
from fear of the rage of the people, he kept close to the 
apostles. Such an opinion changes the entire narrative, and 
converts the apostles into deceivers : it is here only men¬ 
tioned, to show the length to which the rationalistic school 
can go, and the extreme shifts to which they have recourse, 
in order to destroy the miraculous in the narrative, and yet to 
preserve its credibility. 

Vers. 9, 10. Here we are informed of the effect of the 
miracle upon the multitude. The lame man was well known. 
He was laid daily at one of the most frequented gates of the 
temple. And now the people are filled with astonishment to 
see the same lame man in full possession of the use of his 
limbs—leaping, and walking, and praising God. The great 
design of the miracle seems to have been to arouse the atten¬ 
tion of the multitude—to convert them into inquirers. As 
has been well said, u miracles are bells to call the people to 
worship.” Of course, over and above this, they are also 
the divine credentials of the messengers—of those who are 
to conduct the worship. 



Ver. 11. ' Ettl rfj arod rfj rcaXov/jLevr) ^oXo/iwvros — to 
the porch called Solomon's. This porch or cloister was on 
the eastern side of the u court of the Gentiles.” It is 
thus described by Josephus: “ These cloisters (the eastern 
cloisters) belonged to the outer court, and were situated in a 
deep valley, and had walls that reached four hundred cubits 
in length, and were built of square’and very white stones, 
the length of each of which was twenty cubits, and their 
height six cubits. This was the work of King Solomon, 
who first of all built the entire temple” (Joseph. Ant. 
xx. 9. 7). It is not, however, probable that any of the 
porches built by Solomon survived such a lapse of time and 
so many disasters. Solomon, we are informed, filled up part 
of the adjacent valley toward the east, and built there an 
outward portico which was called Solomon’s porch. The 
artificial embankment would perhaps remain; but the porch 
itself would be destroyed. This porch, then, was called 
Solomon’s, not because it was the very same that was built 
by Solomon, but because, being erected on the same artificial 
terrace, and constructed on the same plan, it retained its 
original name. It was in this porch, or in the court in 
front, that the traffic of the money-changers and the sale of 
oxen and doves were carried on; and it was- here also that 
our Lord was surrounded bv the unbelieving Jews when 
they threatened to take away His life (John x. 23). And 
now here another crowd of Jews, actuated by better feelings, 
filled with astonishment at the great miracle which had been 
performed, surrounded the two apostles. 

Ver. 12. ’ATTCKplvaTo — not addressed the people, but 
answered them; because their astonishment and exclama¬ 
tions of surprise expressed a wish for an explanation of the 
wonderful event that had happened. (Compare ch. ii. 12, 

“ What meaneth this?”) Tovtw —masculine, not neuter:-" 
not, as in the authorized version, Why marvel ye at this ? 
but, Why marvel ye at this man?—corresponding to rjiiiv in 
the second clause of the sentence. Their wonder was not in 
itself the subject of censure, but because they referred the 
miracle to the power or piety of the apostles. It took this 



shape: What wonderful men are these who have performed 
so great a miracle ? ’ISia Swa/aei—by our own power, in 
virtue of our inherent power; r\ evcreftGa — or piety. Some 
transcribers, not seeing the connection between the per¬ 
formance of the miracle and piety, have written, e^ovcrla, 
authority. But the obvious meaning is : as if we were such 
pious people, that God should reward us with the power 
of working miracles. Hence Luther renders it Verdienst , 
merit, which certainly is implied in the term. 

Ver. 13. O 0eo? 'Afipaapb — the God of Abraham , and 
Isaac , and Jacob , the God of our fathers. The apostle most 
appropriately commences his discourse with the mention of 
God as their ancestral God. lie thus shows them that it was 
no new religion, inconsistent with the law of Moses, that 
Jesus came to introduce, but that the God of their fathers 
was the author of them both: in short, that the gospel and 
the religion of Moses sprang from the same divine source. 
He thus at the outset removes what might have been an 
obstacle to their reception of the truth. 

Tov 7 raiha avrov ’ Inaovv—His servant Jesus. This by 
the Vulgate and almost all ancient interpreters, and among 
moderns by Kuinoel and Heinrichs, has been rendered as 
if it were the same as His Son Jesus. But the word for 
u son ” is via ?, not mu?. Almost all modern interpreters are 
now agreed that the phrase must be rendered His servant 
Jesus. So Bengel, Nitzsch, Olshausen, De Wette, Meyer, 
Baumgarten, Lechler, Stier, Hackett, Wordsworth, Alford. 
Lechler observes, that since Nitzsch has thrown light upon 
the subject, all modern interpreters have agreed that mu? 
Oeov is not the Son of God, but the servant of God. It 
thus designates not His nature, but His official and Messianic 
character—as the servant of God so often foretold in the 
later chapters of the prophecies of Isaiah (xl.-lxvi.). This 
title is directly applied to Christ in St. Matthew’s Gospel, 
in a- citation from these prophecies, u Behold my servant 
(mu?) whom I have chosen ” (Matt. xii. 18) ; and in the 
Acts of the Apostles it occurs four times in reference to 
Christ; in our passage, in ver. 26 of this chapter, and in 

VOL. I. I 



cli. iv. 27, 30 : in all these places it must be translated 
servant. So also the title is once applied to Israel (Luke 
i. 54), and twice to David (Luke i. 69 ; Acts iv. 25). None 
of the apostles, however, is ever called 7rat? ©eov , but only 
SovXos ©eov. 

Ver. 14. Top ay lop teal Scrcatop—the Holy and Just One. 
The peculiar titles of the Messiah in the Old Testament. 
He is there called the Righteous Branch, the Lord our 
Righteousness, the Holy One, God’s righteous Servant. He 
is called the Holy One, because He was set apart by God ; 
and the Just One, on account of His innocence and perfect 
righteousness. These epithets are here used to mark the 
contrast between Him and Barabbas. "Apbpa <povea—a man , 
a murderer: more emphatic than if he had merely said a 
murderer : a man belonmno; to the class of murderers. 

Ver. 15. Top dp^rjyop rrjs — the Author of life. This 

is the only place where Christ is called the Author of life : 
elsewhere He is called ap^yo^ 76}? acorypla^ (Heb. ii. 10) 
and dp'xrjybs t?5? irlareu)^ (Heb. xii. 2). Christ is the Author 
of life because He preached eternal life to the world, pro¬ 
posed it to believers, purchased it for them by His precious 
blood, and shall at length bestow it upon them. 

In these two last verses (vers. 14, 15) the guilt of the 
Jews is prominently brought forward by a series of anti¬ 
theses. There is the contrast between their conduct and 
that of the heathen Pilate: they delivered up and denied 
their Messiah before Pilate; whereas Pilate, convinced of 
His innocence, had decided to release Him. And there is 
the contrast between the character of Jesus and that of 
Barabbas : they denied the Holy and Just One, and desired 
in His place a man, a murderer. They killed the Author 
of life, whilst they interceded for the pardon of a murderer, 
the destroyer of life. 

Ver. 16. ’Ewi rfj ir caret—on account of faith in His name. 
These words have been variously rendered. Some (Olshausen, 
Stier, Heinrichs, Humphry) render them, for or to faith in 
His name; and suppose that the meaning is, that Peter 
healed the lame man for the purpose of leading him as well 



as others to faith in Christ. 1 But such a meaning strains 
the preposition, and does not well suit the context. Peter 
speaks of himself and the apostles as witnesses, and he brings 
forward an instance of the efficacy of their faith; and there 
is an evident parallelism between the first and second clauses 
of the sentence : the same faith is mentioned, but in the 
second clause it is evidently the faith of the apostle. We 
therefore prefer the interpretation, on account of faith in His 
name (Meyer, De Wette, Hackett, Alford) ; that is, because 
we have faith in His name—the faith alluded to being that 

of the apostles. 'H ttlcttls r) avrov — the faith icliich is 
through Him : not our faith in Him (Piscator) ; nor our faith 
in God, or our miraculous faith (De Wette) ; but rather that 
faith which is wrought or produced in us by Him (Alford, 
Meyer, Olshausen). 

It is to be observed that there is no mention of the faith 
of the lame man. The faith in this sixteenth verse has no 
reference to him. He was at first without faith: instead of 
expecting to be cured, he hoped to receive money from the/> 
apostles. Afterwards, indeed, faith was excited within him, 
when he w r ent with the apostles into the temple, praising 
God ; but it was not demanded from him as a prerequisite 
to his cure. The miraculous faith, or that faith which was 
the instrumental cause of the miracle, was not in the man, 
but in Peter. Our Lord certainly frequently required faith 
in those whom He cured; but it does not seem to have been 
an indisp ensab le condition. In the case of this lame man it 
seems to have been wanting; it followed, but did not pre¬ 

cede his cure. 

Ver. 17. Kara ayvoiav eTrpa^are — in ignorance ye did it. 
The apostle, whilst he charges the Jews with being the 
betrayers and murderers of their Messiah, yet admits, as a 
mitigation of their guilt, that they had committed the crime 
through ignorance. They were not aware that He whom 
they had put to death was the Messiah. Their ignorance 
arose from expecting a victorious Messiah, who should free 
them from the galling yoke of Rome, and restore to them 
1 Stier’s Words of the Apostles, pp. 48, 49. 



the kingdom of David; and hence they were prejudiced 
against the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah. This 
ignorance extended also to their rulers: for the words are 
not to be rendered, “In ignorance ye did as your rulers 
did;” but that what their rulers did was also in ignorance. 
Of course there were different degrees of this ignorance, 
from the insensate blindness of the multitude to the moral 
blindness of the Pharisees, who shut their eyes against the 
truth. Yet all were ignorant; for we believe that the 
Jewish hierarchy, had they been fully persuaded that Jesus 
was the Messiah, would not have dared to put Him to death 
(see 1 Cor. ii. 8). This ignorance, although it excused, yet 
did not exonerate them: so far as it was voluntary and 
avoidable, it was culpable. Hence our Lord, whilst He 
prays for the forgiveness of His enemies on account of their 
ignorance, yet in doing so recognises their guilt: “Father, 
forgive them ; for they know not what they do.” 

Ver. 18. ndvTcov twv TrpocJ^yrwv — of all the prophets . 
This is not to be understood as a hyperbole (Kuinoel) : for 
the Messiah was indeed the centre subject of Jewish pro¬ 
phecy; and the sufferings of the Messiah, along with His 
future glory, were the great subjects of Messianic prophecy 
(1 Pet. i. 11). 

Yer. 19. EU to etjaXeMpdrjvaL, etc. — that pour sins may he 
blotted out. The immediate end to be obtained by their 
repentance and conversion. In consequence of them, their 
sins would be blotted out. The idea of forgiveness is here, 
as in Col. ii. 14, represented as the blotting out or erasure 
of a handwriting. 'Oirw^ av—in order that; not to be 
rendered, as in our version, when with the future—- postquam 
(Beza, Castalio): oVo)? av united with the subjunctive 
entirely precludes such a translation. The words can only 
admit of the meaning in order that (Winer, Meyer, De 
Wette, Wordsworth, Alford). 

’ EXdcoat tcaipoX dva'fi'vgecos—times of refreshing may come. 
The remote end of their repentance and conversion. But 
what is here meant by times of refreshing? Certainly the 
conversion of the Israelites would be to themselves the cause 



of much spiritual joy and peace of mind; and accordingly 
many refer these times to the present, and understand by 
them the spiritual refreshment which arises from believing 
in Christ. And so undoubtedly we would have interpreted 
the phrase, had it stood alone; but taken in connection with 
the next verse, which speaks of the coming of Christ, these 
times of refreshing can refer only to the second advent. 
Peter here conceives that the conversion of the Jews, as a 
nation, would be attended with some extraordinary scene of 
spiritual prosperity which would prepare the way for the 
second advent of Christ. All those interpretations which re¬ 
fer u the times of refreshing ” to anything unconnected with 
the second advent are to be rejected; such as the deliverance 
of the Christians at the destruction of Jerusalem (Ham¬ 
mond, Grotius) ; the period of rest after death (Schulz) ; 
the refreshment to be enjoyed under the gospel (Kuinoel, 
Lightfoot, Stier); or the removal of punishment from the 
Jews on their repentance (Barkey). 

Ver. 20. Kal d'Koa-Te'Cky vyiv I. X .—and that He may send 
to you Jesus Christ . This is to be considered either as con¬ 
temporaneous with the times of refreshing, or as immediately 
following them. The reference is evidently to an objective, 
and not a subjective advent. The text cannot allude to Christ’s 
coming in spirit to destroy Jerusalem, especially considering 
that that was not a time of refreshing, but a time of judg¬ 
ment. It is a matter of dispute in what manner the apostles 
regarded the second coming of Christ. In all probability 
they were so engrossed with it, that they lost sight of inter¬ 
mediate events; it was the object of their earnest desire : 
the period indeed was concealed from them, but they con¬ 
tinually looked forward to it; they expected it as that which 
might occur at any moment. Afterwards, as revelation dis¬ 
closed itself, and the course of providence was developed, 
they did not expect it to occur in their days. Paul especially 
seems to have regarded it as an event in the remote future, 
and cautions his converts not to be shaken in mind, or to be 
troubled, as if the day of Christ was at hand (2 Thess. ii. 2). 
The precise period of the second advent, we are expressly 



informed by our Lord, formed no part of divine revelation : 
it was designedly left in uncertainty by God. Upo/ce^eqncr- 
yevov properly signifies, taken in hand, undertaken, determined, 
appointed: Jesus was appointed for them to be their Messiah. 
He was their predestined Messiah. Literally, and that He 
may send the appointed one to you, Christ Jesus . 

Ver. 21. ' Ov Bel ovpavov yev Be^aaOai. These words admit 
of two translations : either who must receive heaven, or whom 
heaven must receive. The first interpretation is adopted by 
Olshausen, Lange, Heinrichs, Bengel, Stier, and other divines 
of the Lutheran Church. There are several reasons which 
decide against this meaning. It is doubtful if the verb 
Be^oyac is used in the sense of to possess; only one example of 
such a use has been brought forward. Besides, u who must 
receive (that is, possess) heaven ” is here without any suitable 
meaning; whereas it is most appropriate to affirm that 
heaven must receive Christ until the period of His second 
advent. Hence the other translation is to be preferred, whom 
the heaven must receive (Meyer, De Wette, Lechler, Kuinoel, 
Baumgarten, Alford). Christ, the apostle observes, is at 
present in heaven, and will remain there until His second 

"A^pu ypbvwv aTTOKaTaardaeco 9 ttclvtwv — until the times of 
the restoration of cdl things. The meaning of this clause is 
attended with considerable difficulty. The substantive diro- 
KardcrTaaLs does not again occur in the New Testament; but 
the verb from which it is derived is of frequent occurrence* 
It is often used in the sense of spiritual restoration : u Elias 
truly shall first come, and restore all things ” (Matt. xvii. 11) ; 
u Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? ” 
(Acts i. 6.) The word signifies restoration from a state of 
decay or ruin. It cannot bear the meaning of fulfilment; 
so that the passage does not mean that Christ will remain 
in heaven until the fulfilment of all those things which the 
prophets foretold (Theophylact, Grotius, Stier, Whitby). 
What is meant is the restoration of all things to their primeval 
condition. Not that all things, absolutely considered, will be 
restored to their former state, but that there will be a moral 



restoration : the present disorders of this world will be re¬ 
moved ; the good will finally triumph over the evil; holiness 
and happiness will prevail throughout the world. Accord¬ 
ingly, the idea of the apostle seems to be, that so long as the 
unbelief of Israel continues, Christ will remain in heaven ; 
but that their repentance and conversion will bring about the 
times of refreshing, and of the restoration of all things, which 
will either precede or coincide with the second advent. It 
is further to be observed, that wv does not refer to 7 ravrcov, 
as if the meaning were the restoration of all those things 
which God hath spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets ; 
but the u times of the restoration of all things ” is to be re¬ 
garded as a single phrase, and it is these a times of the re¬ 
storation of all things” which is the subject of the predictions 
of the prophets. *flv stands for on?, agreeing with xpovovs. 

Vers. 22, 23. The quotation in these verses is from Dent, 
xviii. 15, 18, 19. The language of the Septuagint is fol¬ 
lowed for the most part; but the citation is freely given. 
There is no necessity, from the context in the Old Testa¬ 
ment, to refer the prediction to the order of prophets in 
general, as contrasted with false prophets (Olshausen, Nean- 
der, De Wette). The word is in the singular; and there is 
no reason for considering it in a collective point of view. 
Peter does not merely accommodate the prophecy, but gives 
the true sense, when he refers it to the Messiah. And it is 
evident from the Gospels and from this address of Peter, 
that the Jews so understood it: the Messiah was regarded 
by them as that great prophet like unto Moses who should 
come into this world. And to Christ alone can this prophecy 
apply. No other prophet resembled Moses. Christ alone 
was like Moses—a lawgiver, a mediator between God and 
the people, and the author of a new dispensation of religion. 

Ver. 24. Kal 7 ravres 3e 01 TTpocpr/rai^ etc. That is to say, 
all the prophets succeeding Moses, from Samuel downwards, 
have likewise foretold of those days. Samuel is here men¬ 
tioned, because few or no prophets intervened between him 
and Moses; at least he is the next prophet whose writings 
have come down to us. He is called by the Jews a the 



master of the prophets and was the founder of the schools 
of the prophets—of that prophetic class of which David and 
Elijah were the highest types. Ta? i)/jl epa 9 tclvtcls — of those 
days. There is no necessity to limit this to the times of the 
restoration of all things (Meyer, De Wette). It rather 
refers to the gospel times in general, which were indeed con¬ 
nected with, and preparatory to, these times of restoration 
(Alford). , In all probability, this verse only contains an 
epitome of Peter’s discourse : he perhaps proved by express 
quotations from the prophets the assertion it contained. His 
address was to the Jews ; and therefore his appeal was to 

Ver. 25 . 'TyLels ecrre ol viol twv 7 rpocpyroov — Ye are the sons 
of the prophets. The prophets were called spiritual fathers ; 
and they who were taught by them were called the sons 
of the prophets. Besides, the Jews inherited the promises 
and blessings revealed by the prophets : u to them were 
committed the oracles of God.” Kal — and of 

the covenant : namely, the covenant which God made with 
Abraham, in choosing him and his posterity for a peculiar 
people, and in restricting the promised seed of the woman to 
his family. Kal iv tw airepfiaTL aov , etc. — and in thy seed 
shall all the families of the earth he blessed. The quotation 
is from Gen. xxii. 18. It is, however, not exactly taken 
from the Septuagint: the order of the words is changed, 
and al irarpial is used instead of ra eOvrj. The seed of 
Abraham is, according to Peter, not to be understood in a 
collective sense, as the Israelites, the posterity of Abraham; 
but in a singular sense, as one seed, the descendant of 
Abraham, namely the Messiah. And so Paul says: u He 
said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to 
thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. iii. 16). 

Ver. 26 . 'Tpclv irpwTov — to you first. The gospel was first 
to be preached to the Jews. Our Lord commanded His 
apostles to begin at Jerusalem ; and accordingly, we not 
only find that this was historically the case ; but Paul, in 
his missionary journeys, first addressed himself to the Jews, 
before he turned to the Gentiles. Certainly the preaching 



of the gospel to the Gentiles is here presupposed. Nor is 
this at variance with the fact that Peter required a special 
revelation before he ventured to preach to Cornelius and his 
Gentile companions ; for it does not appear that he ever 
entertained the notion that the Gentiles should not he brought 
within the church, but only that this would take place through 
the medium of Judaism. It was this error, this exclusiveness, 
that was removed by a special revelation. ’ Avaaryaa^ t ov 
7 ratSa avrov — having raised up His servant. Not having 
raised Him up from the dead (Luther, Beza) ; but having 
raised Him up in the sense of ver. 22, u A Prophet shall the 
Lord your God raise up unto youthat is, caused to appear, 
etc.; sent Him to bless you with the salvation which He has 
procured, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. 
The discourse thus comes to a definite conclusion, and does 
not appear to have been interrupted by the arrival of the 
priests and the captain of the temple. 



1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests, and the 
captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2 Being 
indignant because they taught the people, and preached in Jesus the 
resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put 
them in prison until the morrow; for it was already evening. 4 But 
many of them who heard the word believed ; and the number of the 
men was five thousand. 5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that 
their rulers, and elders, and scribes were gathered together in Jeru¬ 
salem, 6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and 
Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest. 
7 And having set them in the midst, they asked, By what power or by 
what name have ye done this ? 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy 
Ghost, said to them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9 If 
we this day are examined concerning a good deed done to an infirm man, 
by what means he has been cured ; 10 Be it known to you all, and to 

all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, 
whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in Him does this 
man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was 
despised by you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 
12 And there is salvation in no other ; for there is no other name 
under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. 13 And 
seeing the boldness of Peter and John, and having ascertained that they 
were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled ; and they recognised 
them, that they had been with Jesus. 14 And, beholding the man who 
had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to oppose. 
15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the San¬ 
hedrim, they conferred among themselves, 16 Saying, What shall we 
do to these men? for that a notable miracle has been done by them 
is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem ; and we cannot deny 
it. 17 But that it may not spread further among the people, let us 
strictly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this 
name. 18 And when they had called them, they commanded them not 
to speak at all, nor to teach, in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and 
John, answering, said to them, Whether it is right in the sight of God 
to hear you rather than God, judge ye. 20 For we cannot but speak 




the things which we have seen and heard. 21 So, when they had 
further threatened them, they released them, finding nothing how they 
might punish them, because of the people ; for all glorified God for that 
which was done. 22 For the man was above forty years old on whom 
this miracle of healing was wrought. 


Ver. 5. ’Ev AepovaaXrjpi is found in A, B, D, E, and is 
preferred by Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Bornemann to el? 
I. of the textus receptus , found in N, which, however, is de¬ 
fended by Meyer and De Wette. 


Ver. 1. Whilst the apostles Peter and John were address¬ 
ing the people, they were interrupted by the interference of 
the Jewish rulers. Three classes of adversaries are here 
mentioned—the priests, the captain of the temple, and the 
Sadducees. The priests (oi tepee?) were those who at the 
time officiated in the temple. The priesthood was divided 
by David into twenty-four courses; and each course had 
charge of the temple service for a week. This institution 
seems to have been revived after the captivity. 

'O arpar^yo? tov lepov — the captain of the temple. Some 
(Calvin, Hammond, Pearson) suppose that this was the 
captain of the Roman garrison which was placed in the 
Castle of Antonia, to guard and control the temple. It is, 
however, improbable that he would concern himself in the 
present matter. The captain of the temple was more pro¬ 
bably the Jewish priest in command of the Levitical guard 
of the temple. This officer appears from Josephus to have 
been a person of distinction among the Jews. The charge 
with which he was entrusted, that of guarding the temple, 
was one of great importance and influence. lie is mentioned 
in 2 Macc. iii. 4 under the title of irpoaTary]? tov lepov : he 
is again alluded to in the Acts (ch. v. 24), and is frequently 
mentioned by Josephus (Ant. xx. 6. 2, Bell. Jud. vi. 5. 3). 
In one of these passages, Josephus speaks of him as a person 



of such consequence, as to be sent along with the high priest 
prisoner to Rome (Ant. xx. 6. 2). 

01 HaSSovKacoL .—The Sadducees are one of the two great 
Jewish sects mentioned in Scripture as the opponents of 
Christ and His apostles. The origin of the name is disputed. 
Some suppose that they were so called as being the disciples 
of a certain Zadok, the scholar of a distinguished rabbi, 
Antigonus Soclio. The doctrine of Antigonus, we are in¬ 
formed, was that virtue is its own reward, and is to be 
practised irrespectively of all rewards and punishments in 
a future state ; which maxim Zadok and his disciples per¬ 
verted into a denial of a future state. Others derive the 
name from a Hebrew word signifying righteousness , and 
suppose that the Sadducees so called themselves, because 
they prided themselves on the rectitude of their conduct. 
Josephus informs us that they and the Pharisees arose in the 
time of Jonathan Maccabmus. 

With regard to the peculiar doctrines of the Sadducees, 
these appear to have been chiefly three. 1. They rejected 
the traditions of the Fathers. The written word, according 
to them, was the only rule of faith and doctrine ; and all 
the supposed traditions, derived from Moses, were spurious. 
u The Sadducees,” observes Josephus, u affirm that we are 
to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in 
the written word, but are not to observe what are derived 
from the tradition of our forefathers” (Ant. xiii. 10. 6). It 
is, however, erroneous to suppose that they rejected all the 
Jewish Scriptures except the law of Moses. There is no 
mention of this in Josephus, or in other Jewish writers ; and 
such a statement rests on the sole authority of Epiphanius. 
2. The Sadducees rejected the doctrine of a future state. 
They not only affirmed that there was no resurrection of the 
body; but they went much further, and asserted that there 
was no hereafter—that this life w r as the whole of man’s 
existence. u The Sadducees,” says Josephus, u take away 
the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the 
punishments and rewards of Hades ” (Jud. Bell. ii. 8. 14). 
Indeed, from an expression used by Luke, they appear to 


have been materialists : u The Sadducees say there is no 
resurrection, neither angel nor spirit” (Acts xxiii. 8). This 
opinion of theirs seems to have arisen from their denial of 
tradition : because, as they supposed, the doctrine of a future 
state was not taught in the law of Moses ; and although 
passages from the Psalms and the prophets might be adduced 
as directly asserting it, yet, in their opinion, these were to be 
interpreted in accordance with the writings of their great 
lawgiver. 3. The Sadducees, in opposition to the Pharisees, 
asserted the freedom of the will, and, as it appears, denied 
the doctrine of divine influences. “ The Sadducees take 
away fate, and say there is no such thing, and that the events 
of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose 
that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are 
ourselves the causes of what is good, and receive what is 
evil from our own folly” (Joseph. Ant. xiii. 5. 9). Thus, 
according to them, human virtue depended upon man’s own 
efforts. From all this it would appear, that whilst the 
Sadducees escaped the hypocrisies and superstitions arising 
from the pharisaical doctrine of tradition, they fell into the 
more dangerous state of infidelity and selfish worldliness. 

The followers of the Sadducean party, compared with 
those of their rival sect, were few in number; but this was 
counterbalanced by their superior influence. “Their opinions,” 
observes Josephus, “ were received by few, yet by those of 
the greatest dignity” (Ant. xviii. 1. 4). At this period, 
the most influential men among the Jews were probably 
Sadducees. It is even probable that the high priests Annas 
and Caiaphas belonged to this sect. Luke, when relating 
another hostile attack of the hierarchy on the apostles, 
says, u The high priest arose, and all they that were with 
him, which is the sect of the Sadducees” (Acts v. 17) ; and 
Josephus expressly asserts that a son of Annas, of the same 
name, and afterwards high priest, was a Sadducee 1 (Ant. 
xx. 9. 1). 

It must have struck every reader of the Scriptures, that 
whereas in the Gospels the Pharisees are represented as the 
1 Winer’s biblisches Worterbuch , Smith’s Dictionary , etc. 



great opponents of Christ, in the Acts it is the Sadducees 
who are the most violent opponents of the apostles. The 
reason of this seems to be, that in the Gospels Jesns Christ 
came in direct collision with the Pharisees, by unmasking 
their hypocrisies, and endangering their influence among the 
people; whereas the apostles, in testifying to the resurrection 
of Christ, opposed the creed of the Sadducees. Perhaps also, 
in attacking the apostles, who taught the resurrection of that 
Jesus whom the Pharisees had persecuted and crucified, the 
Sadducees aimed an indirect blow at the favourite dogma of 
their rival sect. 

These three parties—the priests, the captain of the temple, 
and the Sadducees—had each a separate ground for hostility. 
The priests would be displeased, because the apostles, who 
were not of the sacerdotal class, invaded their province by 
teaching the people. The captain of the temple might fear 
a disturbance from the assembled multitude; for it must be 
remembered that it was within the sacred precincts of the 
temple, in Solomon’s porch, that the people were gathered 
together. And the motive of the hostility of the Sadducees 
is expressly told us : u They were indignant because the 
apostles taught the people, and preached in Jesus the resur¬ 
rection from the dead.” 

Ver. 2. ’ Ev rd> ’ Irjcrov—in Jesus; that is, in the person 
of Jesus. The apostles do not seem directly to have taught 
the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead; but in testify¬ 
ing to the resurrection of Jesus, which was the great subject 
of their testimony, they asserted its possibility, by adducing 
an actual instance of one raised from the dead. 

Trj v avaaracrLV ttjv etc veKpwv —the resurrection from the 
dead. Principal Campbell, in his note on Matt. xxii. 23, 
asserts that dvdaTacris does not in itself signify the resurrec¬ 
tion, but merely the future life; and that it is only by the 
addition of other words that the resurrection of the body is 
implied. a The word dvdaraa^f he observes, u or rather 
the phrase dvaaraai ? tcov vefcpcov, is indeed the common term 
by which the resurrection properly so termed is denominated 
in Scripture. Yet this is neither the only nor the primitive 


import of the word dvdaracn ?. When applied to the dead, 
the word denotes properly no more than a renewal of life to 

them, in whatever manner it may happen.” The Sadducees, 
he observes, denied not only the resurrection from the dead, 
but the future state of retribution. The same view of the 
subject is taken by Dr. Dwight. The word itself literally 
signifies a rising up, —a mode of expression which is closely 
allied to the idea of a resurrection, but seems obscurely and 
inaptly to apply to the immortality of the soul. Besides, it 
is doubtful whether the Jews in the time of our Saviour 
had any distinct idea of the existence of the soul apart from 
that of the body. And it is evident that in the passage under 
consideration, the words g dvdaraai^ Ik veKpwv signify the 
resurrection properly so called, because the reference is dis¬ 
tinctly to the rising of Jesus from the dead. By dvdcrrao-i 9 , 

then, we think, is meant the whole future state—the resur¬ 
rection of both soul and body; so that when it is said that 
the Sadducees denied the dvdaraai 9 , the meaning is that 
they called in question this future state. 

Ver. 3. 9 Hv yap ecnrepa ghg — for it teas already evening. 
It was three in the afternoon when Peter and John went up 
to the temple to pray ; it was some time afterwards that they 
addressed the multitude: the address itself also would occupy 
some time, so that it would be evening, or six o’clock, when 
the priests and the Sadducees came upon them. 

Ver. 4. ’Eyevgdg 6 dpiOgbs tmv dvSpwv—the number of 
the men ivas about five thousand. Some suppose that the 
men, to the exclusion of the women, are here mentioned. 
Olshausen, contrary to all probability, thinks that at first it 
was only men who were added to the church. ’AvSpbbv is 
here probably used for dvOpwirccv, as including both men 
and women, in the same sense as when Luke speaks of the 
number of souls (ch. ii. 41). The number here given, five 
thousand, is the number of Christians then in Jerusalem, 
and is to be considered as including the three thousand who 
were converted on the day of Pentecost. 

Ver. 5. Avtcov tou? ap^onra? koX irpecrfivTepovs koX ypag~ 
garei^—their rulers , and elders , and scribes. Avrwv here 



refers not to the apostles, but to the Jews in general. By 
the rulers, elders, and scribes, are to be understood the San¬ 
hedrim, or supreme council of the Jewish nation. By the 
rulers are meant the Sanhedrim in general, or its principal 
members, the chief priests ; by the elders, perhaps the heads 
of the twenty-four courses of the priests, or the presidents 
of the synagogues ; and by the scribes, those of the inter¬ 
preters of the law who were members of the Sanhedrim. 

’ Ev 'lepovcraXrjgb—in Jerusalem. The manuscripts here 
differ (see critical note). Some (Meyer, Bengel, Light- 
foot, De Wette) read, as in the textus receptus , eh 'Iepov- 
oraXrgi—to Jerusalem ; and suppose that it means that those 
members of the Sanhedrim who resided out of the city came 
up from their country residences. The Syriac version omits 
the words entirely. Others (Alford), adopting the reading 
in Jerusalem , think that it implies that the meeting was not 
held in the temple, but in the city. 

Ver. QJAvvav rov ap^tepea—Annas the high priest. Annas 
—or, as he is called by Josephus, Ananus—appears at this 
time to have been the most influential man amoncj the Jews. 
He was made high priest by Cyrenius, the governor of Syria, 
in the thirty-seventh year after the battle of Actium (Joseph. 
Ant. xviii. 2. 1), and continued so until the beginning of the 
reign of Tiberius, when he was deprived of the priesthood 
by Valerius Gratus, the procurator of Judea. But although 
no longer high priest, he still retained his authority : he 
exercised the chief influence during the long priesthood of 
his son-in-law Caiaphas ; and no less than five of his sons— 
Eleazar, Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, and Ananus— 
were advanced to the office of high priest in his lifetime. 
He lived to an old age, and died before the Jewish war. 
Josephus says of him: “This elder Ananus proved a most 
fortunate man, for he had five sons who had all performed 
the office of a high priest, and he had himself enjoyed that 
dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to 
any of our high priests” (Ant. xx. 9. 1). There is here a 
difficulty in the fact that Annas is here plainly termed the 
high priest; whereas Caiaphas in reality at this time occupied 



that office. Various explanations have been given of this 
anomaly. We cannot suppose, with Meyer and De Wette, 
that Luke is here mistaken, because the historical fact was 
notorious; or with Baumgarten, that there is reason for 
supposing that Annas was the high priest for this year,— 
an opinion which contradicts history; or with Calvin, that 
this event occurred several years after the memorable day 
of Pentecost, when Jonathan the son of Annas was high 
priest, and that he was also called by the same name as his 
father; or with Lange and Wordsworth, that the Jews re¬ 
garded Annas as the legitimate high priest (de jure), and 
Caiaphas only as the nominal one, which is a mere arbitrary 
supposition. The most probable opinion is, that Annas is 
here called the high priest, as by reason of his great autho¬ 
rity and influence he in reality exercised all the powers of 
the high priest. 1 Hence in Luke’s Gospel he is mentioned 
along with Caiaphas, and that first in order : “ Annas and 
Caiaphas being the high priests” (Luke iii. 1); and John 
tells us that the Jews led Jesus to Annas first, in all proba¬ 
bility because he was a more important person than Caiaphas. 
There is, in the great influence which Annas possessed, 
ground for the supposition that he was the Nasi or president 
of the Sanhedrim, an office at least equal to the high-priest¬ 
hood in power and importance; for although the office of 
president of the Sanhedrim was in general conferred on the 
high priest, yet this was not always the case. 2 

Kal Kaidfyav—and Caiaphas. Caiaphas was raised to the 
high-priesthood by Valerius Gratus, the governor of Judea, 
and continued undisturbed in this office during the whole pro- 
curatorship of Pilate, for a period of nearly twelve years, 
from a.d. 24 to a.d. 36. He was deposed at the commence¬ 
ment of the reign of Caligula by Vitellius the governor of 
Syria, and was succeeded by Jonathan, one of the sons of 

1 Another probable opinion is, that he is here called high priest be¬ 
cause he once occupied that office. This, however, will hardly account 
for his being placed before Caiaphas, the actual high priest. 

2 This supposition is merely stated, without placing any weight upon 
it, as it is in itself doubtful. 

VOL. I. 




Annas. He was entirely under the influence of Annas, who 
was connected with him as his father-in-law. 

Kal ’Icoavvrjv koX ’ A\e^avBpov—and John and Alexander. 
We know nothing of these two influential persons. As re¬ 
gards the first, Lightfoot supposes him to have been the same 
as Johanan ben Zaccai, a distinguished Jewish rabbi, who, 
after the destruction of Jerusalem, obtained permission from 
the Romans that the Sanhedrim might be settled at Japhneh, 
and who is frequently mentioned in the Talmud. The Codex 
Bezas reads Jonathan, a reading adopted by Bornemann, which, 
if correct, would make him the same as Jonathan the son of 
Annas, who afterwards became high priest.—Alexander is 
by some supposed to have been the same as Alexander Lysi- 
maclius, who afterwards became the Alabarch or governor 
of the Jews in Alexandria, and who, according to Josephus 
and Eusebius, was the brother of Philo. There is, however, 
no evidence to support this supposition. 

Ver. 7. ’Ev ttolcl Swa/iei rj ei> 7 tolw ovo/ian — by ivhat 
power or by what name have ye done this? Tovto refers not 
to the teaching of the apostles (Olshausen), but to the miracle 
they performed, for so Peter understood it. The Sanhedrim 
inquire by what power they had done this miracle: not by 
what authority —potestate (Beza); but by what physical 
power —vi (De Wette). They also inquire, By what name? 
In doing so, they wished to found a charge of heresy against 
the apostles, if they replied that the miracle was performed 
in the name of Jesus, whom the council had condemned as a 
false Messiah. 

Vers. 8-10. These verses contain the answer of Peter. 
He commences by acknowledging their authority as rulers of 
the people and elders of Israel. He then answers the ques¬ 
tion, that in the name of Jesus the Nazarene, in virtue of 
His name as the efficient cause of the miracle, whom they 
had crucified, but whom God had raised from the dead, even 
by Him was this lame man cured. The lame man himself 
was present; and by pointing to him, the apostle so enforced 
his reply that it could not be contradicted. It is here to be 
observed that Peter does not say that the miracle was per- 


formed in the name of God, in whose name, according to the 
Jews, the prophet was required to perform his miracles ; but 
in the name of Jesus the Nazarene, thus indirectly ascribing 
divine honour to Him. 

Yer. 11. The allusion in this verse is to Ps. cxviii. 22. 
Our Lord quotes the words as referring to Himself : u Jesus 
saitli unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The 
stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the 
head of the corner?” (Matt. xxi. 42.) In the primary mean¬ 
ing of these words, David refers to himself. He complains 
that he was rejected by the rulers and chiefs of Israel, but that 
notwithstanding he was chosen by God to be the head of the 
Jewish nation; like a stone cast aside by the builders as use¬ 
less, but which afterwards became the principal stone of the 
building. It is also probable that the words became a proverb, 
and admitted of a variety of applications. What man despised 
and rejected, that God honoured and exalted. Here Peter 
applies the words to Christ, to whom in their highest sense 
they certainly refer. The Jewish rulers were the builders 
of the theocracy; to them was entrusted the charge of the 
house of God : they had rejected Jesus, their true Messiah; 
they had cast Him aside, and esteemed Him as nothing : but 
God, by raising Him from the dead, had constituted Him 
the head of the corner—that on which the whole theocracy 
rests—the only sure foundation of God’s spiritual temple. 

Yer. 12. Kal ov/c eanv . . . rj awr^pla — and there is salva¬ 
tion in no other. Some understand ?; awrgpla of the cure 
of the lame man, and render it, there is healing in no other 
(Michaelis, Whitby) ; but such a meaning weakens the 
words, and is contradicted by the statement which follows. 
Peter had already passed from the cure of the lame man to 
the character of Jesus as the promised Messiah. Others 
understand the word in a double sense, as comprehending 
both corporeal and spiritual salvation (Heinrichs, Stier). The 
reference is evidently to that salvation which the Messiah 
was to work out—a salvation from sin and its consequences. 
As Messiah, Jesus was constituted the only Saviour (Acts 
vi. 31). So Calvin, De Wette, Olshausen, Meyer. 



Ver. 13. Tlappyaiav — boldness. This word, which is 
frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles, literally signi¬ 
fies freedom of speech. It is derived from irav pycns, free¬ 
spokenness , if we may use such a word. Hence boldness , 
freedom of utterance. And certainly, in accusing the chief 
priests and rulers to their face with being the murderers of 
their Messiah, the apostle showed great boldness of speech. 

'Av0pcoiroL dypdpjiaroi /cal ibiwrat—unlearned and ignorant 
men. ’ Aypayparoi signifies without letters , hence uneducated. 
Here it denotes that the apostles w T ere destitute of rabbinical 
learning: they had not been trained in the Jewish schools. 
’ISlwtoi has been variously rendered. Its precise meaning 
depends on the context. Hence it sometimes signifies a 
private man, a plebeian, one unlearned, a common soldier, 
one not trained in gymnastic exercises (Meyer). The usual 
meaning given to it in this passage by commentators is 
plebeian , denoting that the apostles did not belong to the 
rulers, but were of the common people—that they were men 
of no mark. Hence Lightfoot renders it vulgar. As, how¬ 
ever, the contrast here is between the speech of the apostles 
and their want of learning, it is perhaps best to retain the 
translation in the authorized version— ignorant. The San¬ 
hedrim were astonished that a man so destitute of learning; 
as Peter should so powerfully address them. So, in like 
manner, the discourses of Jesus gave rise to a similar 
astonishment : “ How knoweth this man letters, having 
never learned?” (John vii. 15.) 

’ErreyLVcocrrcov re avrovs on avv rw 'Irjaov rjaav—and they 
recognised them , that they had been with Jesus. At first, it 
appears that the acquaintance of the apostles wfith Jesus did 
not strike them. But, as Meyer observes, their w r onder 
sharpened their intellects; so that, on observing their prisoners 
more closely, they recognised them as persons whom they 
had seen with Jesus. Although the ministry of our Lord 
was chiefly confined to Galilee, yet He frequently appeared 
in Jerusalem with His disciples. And on several occasions 
some of the rulers were present at His discourses, and thus 
would become acquainted with the personal appearance of 


at least His two most distinguished followers. Besides, we 
are informed that one of Christ’s disciples, probably John, 
was personally known to Caiaphas, the high priest (John 
xviii. 15). 

Ver. 14. The man himself, who had been miraculously 
restored to the use of his limbs, was present in the court. 
He was there standing, no longer the cripple who never had 
walked, and who had to be carried to the Beautiful gate of 
the temple. The miracle, then, could not be gainsayed; 
Peter’s declaration could not be called in question. Baur 
objects that it is extremely improbable that the Sanhedrim 
would permit the man to be present to their own confusion, 
and that this notice of his presence renders the whole narra¬ 
tive suspicious. 1 But the lame man might have been called 
for examination, as the Jews formerly examined the man 
who had been born blind, whom our Lord had restored to 
sight; or, as the Sanhedrim was an open court, he might 
have come as an interested spectator; or, as Neander con¬ 
jectures, he might also have been arrested at the same time 
with the apostles. 

Vers. 15, 16. It is to be observed that, in the consultation 
of the Sanhedrim, they do not attempt to deny the miracle; 
on the contrary, they admit that this is a fact which cannot 
be denied. Modern sceptics would deny the possibility of 
the miracle entirely; but Jewish sceptics admitted the 
reality of the miracle, but evaded the inferences derived 
from it, by referring it to some other power than God. 
Hence they formerly accused Christ of performing miracles 
by the power of Beelzebub. 

Vers. 17, 18. ’AW’ Lva fig eVt . . . et? tov \aov—but that 
it spread no further among the people. The Sanhedrim find 
that they cannot deny the miracle, and that they cannot 
punish the apostles for having done a good deed to an in¬ 
firm man : and besides, the multitude were at this time on 
the side of the apostles; and as the rulers would not yield, 
the only course left was by means of threats to endeavour 
to shut the mouths of the apostles. Since they cannot 

1 Baur’s Apostel Paulus , p. 22. 



answer the apostles by reason, they seek to silence them by 
violence. They therefore command them not to speak at 
all, nor teach, in the name of Jesus. 

Vers. 19, 20. To this prohibition Peter replies, that they 
must obey God rather than man. The meaning is not, as 
in the authorized version, that they should hearken to God 
more than they hearken to man; but that in this matter 
they should hearken to God, and not to man at all. Two 
commands here came into collision: the command of the 
rulers not to teach in the name of Jesus, and the command 
of God to teach ; and the weaker authority must yield to 
the stronger—God must be obeyed, and not man. Peter 
appeals to the consciences of his judges : u Whether it is right 
in the sight of God ( judice Deo) to hearken to you rather 
than to God, judge ye.” There is a passage in the life of 
Socrates which bears a striking resemblance to this. When 


they were condemning him to death for teaching the people 
their duties to God, he replied : a O ye Athenians, I will 
obey God rather than you (7 reicroficu 8e Gew paWov rj 
v/jllv) ; and if you would dismiss me and spare my life, on 
condition that I should cease to teach my fellow-citizens, I 
would rather die a thousand times than accept the proposal.” 

Ver. 21. Mr/bev evplcncovTes^ etc.— finding nothing how they 
might punish them. This does not mean that they could not 
discover any pretext to punish them—any ground of accusa¬ 
tion (Kuinoel); but that they could not find any particular 
punishment to inflict, without arousing the indignation of the 
people (Meyer). AcdrovXaov—because of the people. The 
people for the present favoured the disciples : they were their 
defence against the hostility of the rulers. It is, however, 
probable, as Neander and Lange remark, that another reason 
of the present leniency of the Sanhedrim was, that several 
of its members favoured the Christians. The apostles had 
friends in the Sanhedrim. Joseph of Arimathea and Nico- 
demus were perhaps among its members; and we after¬ 
wards read that Gamaliel, the leader of the Pharisaic party, 
was inclined to befriend them. Perhaps also the rivalry 
between the Sadducees and the Pharisees may on this occa- 


sion have benefited the apostles. The Sadducees were the 
chief promoters of this prosecution, because the apostles 
preached in Jesus the resurrection; but as this was a 
favourite dogma of the Pharisaic faction, naturally they 
would not unite with the Sadducees. Afterwards indeed, 
when, as it appeared to them, the Mosaic religion itself was 
endangered by the preaching of Stephen, both sects laid 
aside their mutual enmity, and the Pharisees as well as the 
Sadducees united in their efforts to crush Christianity. At 
present, however, it was chiefly with the doctrines of the 
Sadducees that the teaching of the apostles came into colli¬ 

It is to be observed that this trial of Peter and John 
before the Sanhedrim formed a crisis in the history of Chris¬ 
tianity. The Jewish rulers were called, for the first time, 
to give their decision. It is true that the same council had 
rejected Jesus ; but circumstances were altered. They had 
rejected their Messiah through ignorance; but now there 
were strong proofs that He was raised from the dead, and 
thus declared by God to be the Messiah. The Holy Spirit 
had been poured forth. Thousands of Jews had become 
converts to Christianity. What, then, are the council to do ? 
Are they to yield to these evidences, and acknowledge the 
crucified One as their Messiah ? Or are they to persevere 
in unbelief ? And it is to be observed that the Sanhedrim 
was not only the highest civil authority in the nation, but 
the highest religious authority. The Jews were still a 
theocracy, and their scribes and elders sat in Moses’ seat. 
How important, then, the crisis! What consequences de¬ 
pended on this present decision ! They consult and delibe¬ 
rate, and decide against Christianity. u What a shock to 
the mind,” as Baumgarten observes ; u what perplexity, 
weakness, and want of faith would in these days show 
themselves, if the highest authority in sacred things were to 
decide against the truth ! How many are there at all times 
who are disposed to maintain inviolate a respect for such an 
authority, which they say is indispensable for the general 
good, even though truth would in some degree suffer thereby ! 



How few in sncli a case would maintain either internal cer¬ 
tainty, or even external firmness ! And what is any sacred 
authority among ourselves, compared with the Sanhedrim of 
Israel in the first days after Pentecost! ” 1 

The rulers of Israel, however ignorant when they rejected 
and crucified Jesus, must now have strongly suspected that 
He whom they had crucified was indeed the Messiah. But 
if they acknowledged this, then they must confess that they 
were guilty of a crime of the greatest magnitude. This 
they could not prevail upon themselves to do. They there¬ 
fore stifle their convictions; and, as is generally the case with 
those who do so, they come forth as persecutors of that cause 
which they more than half suspect is true; they attempt 
to drown by violence the accusations of their conscience. 
They had only one choice : they must either acknowledge 
that they had crucified their Messiah, or else persecute the 
Christians as the disciples of a pretended Messiah; and they 
choose the latter alternative. 


Our information concerning the Sanhedrim is but scanty. 
The Jewish rabbis trace its origin back to the time of 
Moses, and suppose it to have been the same as the council 
of seventy elders appointed in the wilderness to assist Moses 
in his judgments (Num. xi. 16). They maintain that this 
council was continued until the captivity, and was re¬ 
organized by Ezra on the return of the Jews. This opinion 
has been supported by Grotius, Salmasius, and Selden. It 
would, however, appear that this council of seventy elders 
was only provisional, and that it ceased on the establishment 
of the Israelites in Canaan, as there is no mention of it in 
the subsequent history of the nation. Besides, the word 
Sanhedrim is Greek (crureSpmz/), and therefore its origin is 
to be dated after the Jews came in contact with the Greeks. 

1 Bauingarten’s Apostolic History , vol. i. p. 96. 



The first mention of it by Josephus is in the time of the high- 
priesthood of Hyrcanus, when Herod (afterwards the Great) 
was summoned before it (Ant. xiv. 9. 4). In all probability, 
it is the same with the Council of the Jews ( 7 epovala tow 
A ovSaicov) mentioned in the second book of Maccabees 
(2 Macc. i. 10 , iv. 44). 

It is generally agreed that the Sanhedrim was composed 
of seventy-one persons ; there being seventy members and a 
president. These members seem to have included the high 
priest for the time being, the former high priests, the heads 
of the twenty-four priestly courses, and others from among 
the elders or rulers of the synagogues, and from among the 
scribes or the interpreters of the law. The president of this 
council was called the Nasi, and was at this period one of the 
most influential men among the Jews. In general, the high 
priest was also the president of the Sanhedrim, although 
this was not necessarily the case. There was also a vice- 
president, who sat at his right hand, called in the Talmud 
“ the father of the house of judgment.” 

The place where the Sanhedrim at first met was a room 
in the temple, situated between the court of the Israelites 
and the court of the priests, called the Hall of Gazzith. 
Forty years, however, before the destruction of Jerusalem, 
we are informed that, for some unknown reason, their place 
of meeting was removed to a building without the courts of 
the temple, but still adjoining to them, situated on Mount 
Moriah. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrim, 
by the permission of the Romans, removed to Japhneh, and 
after several other changes was settled at Tiberias. 

The Sanhedrim was the hiojiest national court amon^ the 

O O 

Jews. Its jurisdiction extended to all manner of questions, 
both civil and religious. Political offenders as well as religious 
heretics were summoned before it. The accused were heard 
in defence, witnesses were examined, and sentences from 
which there was no appeal were pronounced. We find that 
Jesus was tried before this court as a false Messiah ; Peter 
and John as workers of miracles, who appropriated divine 
powers to themselves; Stephen as a blasphemer; and Paul 



as a teacher of false doctrines. In one important matter, 
however, the authority of the Sanhedrim was abridged : the 
Romans deprived it of the power of life and death. They 
might pronounce sentence of death, but the sanction of the 
Roman governor had to be obtained before that sentence 
could be carried into execution. According to the Talmud, 
the Sanhedrim was deprived of the power of inflicting 
capital punishment forty years before the destruction of 
Jerusalem; whereas formerly it alone of all the Jewish 
courts possessed this power (Joseph. Ant. xiv. 9. 3). Hence 
the remark of the Jewish rulers to Pilate : u It is not lawful 
for us to put any man to death” (John xviii. 31). The 
stoning of Stephen is not an exception to this ; for that 
happened during a popular tumult, and when, in all proba¬ 
bility, there was a vacancy in the Roman procuratorship, after 
Pilate had been sent to Rome. A similar instance occurred 
afterwards, when James the Just was put to death by the 
high priest Ananus during the absence of the Roman gover¬ 
nor : for Josephus expressly informs us that this was an 
illegal assumption of power, and for which Ananus was de¬ 
posed from the high-priesthood (Ant. xx. 9. 1). Nor was 
the Sanhedrim merely a criminal court, but also a court of 
legislature. They made laws for the regulation of worship, 
and they fixed the days of the new moons. Under the 
Roman government, however, its legislation would neces¬ 
sarily be almost entirely confined to religious matters. It 
would seem also that its jurisdiction was not confined to 
Judea, but extended to the Jews resident abroad $ for when 
Paul went to persecute the Christians at Damascus, he 
carried with him letters from the Sanhedrim to the syna¬ 
gogues of that city (Acts ix. 2). 1 

1 Winer’s biblischer Worterbuch , article Synedrium ; Smith’s Biblical 
Dictionary ; Olshausen’s Gospel and Acts , vol. iv. p. 72. 



Acts iv. 23-37. 

23 And, being released, they went to their own, and related what 
things the chief priests and elders said to them. 24 And they hav¬ 
ing heard it, lifted up their voice with one accord to God, and said, 
u Lord, Thou who hasc made the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, 
and all things in them ; 25 Who by the mouth of Thy servant David 

hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the peoples imagine vain 
things ? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were 

gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. 27 For of 
a truth, in this city, against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou hast 
anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the 
peoples of Israel, were gathered together, 28 To do what things Thy 
hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, 
Lord, behold their threatenings : and give to Thy servants, that with 
all boldness they may speak Thy word, 80 Whilst Thou stretchest 
forth Thine hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done 
through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had 
prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled; and they 
were all tilled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God 
with boldness. 

32 And the multitude of believers were of one heart and of one soul: 
and not one said that ought of the things which he possessed was his 
own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power 
gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus ; and 
great favour was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among 
them that needed : for such as were possessors of fields or houses sold 
them, and brought the prices of what was sold, 35 And placed them at 
the feet of the apostles ; and distribution was made unto every man 
according as he had need. 36 And Joseph, who by the apostles was 
surnamed Barnabas, which is, by interpretation, The son of exhortation, 
a Levite, a Cyprian by birth, 37 Having a field, sold it, and brought 
the money, and laid it at the feet of the apostles. 


Ver. 24. f O @eo? is wanting in A, B, N, several versions 
and Fathers, and contained in D, E ; it is omitted by Lach- 




mann and Tischendorf, but retained by Meyer, De Wette, 
and Alford. Yer. 25. The readings in this verse are various ; 
among which o tov irarpo ? rniwv $La 'TTvevfiaro ? arjiov gto- 
fiaros AavelS nrcuhos gov elrroiv is the best attested : it is 
contained in A, B, E, K; it is, however, rejected by Tischen¬ 
dorf and Meyer, who retain the reading of the textus 
receptus. Yer. 27. 'Ey ry nroXei ravry is contained in 
A', B, D, E, N, and is inserted by all modern critics as un¬ 
doubtedly genuine. Yer. 36. Instead of TwcriJ?, A, B, D, E, N 
read ’Icoaycj), the reading now generally adopted. 


Yer. 23. Upo? roi) s' l&lovs— to their owii. Olshausen sup¬ 
poses that by t$ioi is here meant the household church of 
the apostles, those with whom they were accustomed to unite 
in social prayer; but there is nothing in the context to limit 
the expression to so narrow a circle. Meyer and De Wette 
suppose that the fellow-apostles are meant, because it is said 
of all present that they spake the word of God (ver. 31), 
and because in ver. 32 the multitude of believers are distin¬ 
guished from them ; but speaking the word of God was not 
a matter confined to the apostles, and ver. 32 is the com¬ 
mencement of a new paragraph. By tStot, then, is most 
naturally meant the community of believers, the church in 
general. So Kuinoel, Baumgarten, Lechler. Among be¬ 
lievers the apostles felt themselves at home, as contrasted 
with being among the rulers in the Sanhedrim. To them 
they relate all that the chief priests and rulers—that is, the 
Sanhedrim—had said to them. u Not for their own glory,” 
says St. Chrysostom, u did they tell the tale; but what they 
displayed were the proofs therein exhibited of the grace of 
Christ. All that their adversaries had said, this they told : 
their own part, it is likely, they omitted.” 

This was a most important crisis for the infant church. 
The highest civil and religious authority in the nation had 
decided against it. But, weak and defenceless in itself, it 
does not despond : on the contrary, it betakes itself to God 



in prayer; and filled with a holy boldness, it defies all the 
powers of the world combined to overthrow the cause of 
Christ. “ The church,” observes Baumgarten, “ is no doubt 
shaken ; but it is the shaking of a tree by the wind, which 
only causes it to strike a deeper and firmer root into the 
ground.” 1 

Ver. 24. Ol <$e dfcovcravres oyo0v/iaSbv, etc. —But when they 
heard that , they lifted up their voice with one accord to God. 
To the threats of their enemies, the church opposes prayer to 
God. The origin of this prayer has been variously under¬ 
stood. Bengel supposes that Peter was the spokesman, and 
that the other disciples repeated the words after him; but, 
according to the context, it was Peter and John who gave 
the account, and those who heard that prayed. In a similar 
manner, Baumgarten supposes that the whole assembly sang 
together the second Psalm, and that Peter made an applica¬ 
tion of it to their present circumstances; but the words of 
the psalm are so interwoven with the application as to form 
one prayer. Meyer thinks that the words uttered were a 
form of prayer of the apostolic church of Jerusalem, com¬ 
posed under their fresh impressions of the sufferings of 
Christ, and under the impulse of the Holy Ghost, and which 
was now used on account of its suitableness to the occasion ; 2 
but the impression conveyed in the narrative is, that the 
prayer was now for the first time composed, since it ex¬ 
pressly refers to the threatenings of the Sanhedrim, of 
which they had just been informed. The most probable 
opinion is that adopted by De Wette, Olshausen, Stier, 
Lechler, and Alford, that one of the apostles or of the dis¬ 
ciples uttered the prayer, and the rest either followed it by 
word of mouth, or inwardly assented to it. 

Aecnrora , crv 6 Trotr/cras t ov ovpavov — Lord , Thou who hast 
made the heaven. Some supply e2 after av — Lord , Thou art 
Tie who hast made; but the addition is unnecessary. God 
is here spoken of as the Creator of all things, because the 
disciples had recourse to His Omnipotence as a defence 

1 Baumgarten’s Apostolic History , vol. i. p. 100, Clark’s translation. 

2 See also Wheatly on the Prayer Book. 



against their enemies. All the power of their adversaries 
is but feebleness, compared with the power of Him who 
is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and all things 
in them. 

Yers. 25, 26. This quotation is from Ps. ii. 1, 2. The 
words are taken verbatim from the Septuagint. The second 
Psalm is in this passage ascribed to David. There is no 
superscription either in the Hebrew or in the Septuagint; 
but the Jews ascribed all those psalms whose authors are not 
mentioned to David ; and there are strong presumptive 
evidences that this second Psalm in particular was his com¬ 
position. 1 ’Ecppva^av properly refers to the rage of an un¬ 
manageable horse; hence to rage, to make a noise, to raise a 
tumult. Kara rov Xpcarov avrov—against His Anointed . 
This reference is to the Jewish custom of anointing kings, 
prophets, and priests, when they were consecrated to their 
respective offices. u Christ” from the Greek, and u Messiah ” 
from the Hebrew, both su^crest the same idea—the Anointed. 

With regard to the meaning of these words, they may 
have a historical foundation, and a primary application to 
David. He was God’s anointed king. Against him the 
kings of the earth and the rulers were combined. He was 
exposed to the attacks of foreign enemies: the Philistines, 
Moabites, Ammonites, Idumeans, and Syrians were confede¬ 
rate against him. He was a prey to civil dissensions, and 
once he had to fly before his rebellious son. But David here 
strengthens himself in God; and strong in His protection, 
he derides all the efforts of his enemies. He was the anointed 
king of Zion, and therefore all the attacks of his enemies 
were directed against the Lord Himself. 

But whatever may have been its primary meaning, the 
Psalm is evidently Messianic. It is frequently applied by 
the inspired writers to Christ, as is here done by the church 
in general. Thus Paul, in speaking of the resurrection of 
Christ, expressly quotes it: “ As it is written in the second 
Psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee ” 

1 Its applicability to the circumstances of the life of David is very 
evident. See below. 



(Acts xiii. 33). 1 Its Messianic character is also admitted by 
Rabbi David Kimchi, Saadias Gaon, and other Jewish 
writers. And those German critics, such as De Wette, who 
appear the most unwilling to admit the Messianic nature of 
the Psalms, yet allow that this psalm refers to the Messiah. 2 

Yer. 27. In this verse, the church in its prayer makes an 
application of the prophetic words of David to their present 
circumstances. ’Ev rfj ttoXel ravry — in this city. These words, 
although not in the textus receptus , are regarded as genuine 
by all modern critics: they answer to (C Upon my holy hill 
of Zion ” in the second Psalm (Ps. ii. 6). ’ Ett\ tov dyiov 

rrac^a crov ’Irjaovv—against Thy holy servant Jesus. natSa, 
the same word which is applied to David in ver. 25 : it 
signifies, not son, but servant. See note to ch. iii. 26. Aaols 
JaparjX — the peoples of Israel , in the plural: used probably 
to correspond with Aaot? in the prophecy, and without 
reference to the ten tribes, or to the Jews dispersed among 
the nations. There is a designed correspondence between 
the different enemies who rose against God’s holy servant 
Jesus, and those mentioned in the Psalm as gathered to¬ 
gether against the Lord and His Anointed. Thus the 
heathen correspond to the Gentiles, that is, the Romans; 
the peoples to the people of Israel; the kings of the earth 
to Herod; and their rulers to Pontius Pilate. And so also 
the Lord in the Psalm corresponds to God, the Maker of 
heaven and of earth ; and the Lord’s Anointed to “Thy holy 
servant Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed.” 

Yer. 28. TTocrjaai ocra g yelp crov , etc.— to do ivhatsoever 
Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to he done. 
These words are not to be connected with eyptcras —that 
God had anointed Jesus to do whatsoever He had previously 
determined (Limborch),—a meaning which does violence to 
the text. But they belong to avvgydycrav —that Herod and 
Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, 
were gathered together to do whatsoever God’s hand and 

1 For the application of this psalm to Christ, see Ileb. i. 5, v. 15, Rev. 
ii. 26, 27, xii. 5, xix. 15. 

2 De Wette, Apostelgeschichte , p. 53. 



counsel determined before to be done. They thought to do 
their own will, but in reality they were fulfilling the purpose 
of God. lie makes the actions of His enemies subservient 
to His purposes. a The death of the Lord,” as Meyer 
observes, u was not the accidental work of hostile wilfulness; 
but, on the contrary, the necessary result of the divine 
determination, which must use the free action of man as its 
instruments.” 1 This determination of God, however, must 
be explained in such a manner as to make it consistent with 
the free agency of men. Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and 
the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, though acting as the 
instruments of God’s will, were not freed from moral 
responsibility, nor was their guilt thereby in the least degree 
extenuated. Xelp refers to the power, and /3oiA?j to the 
wisdom of God. 

Yers. 29, 30. These verses contain the petition of the 
church. The church entreats the Lord to behold the 
threatenings of its enemies; that is, to behold them accord¬ 
ing to His watchful providence, His restraining power, and 
His protecting care. It is, however, to be observed that the 
disciples do not imprecate the vengeance of God upon their 
enemies: what they pray for is not acts of wrath, but deeds 
of mercy. For themselves, the disciples pray for boldness 
of utterance—“that with all boldness they may speak the 
word;” that they might not be intimidated by the declared 
opposition of their rulers, seeing that no combination of 
power can prevail against the Lord and His Anointed. And 
they further pray for success in their ministry: that God 
would stretch forth His hand, not to smite His and their 
enemies, but to heal; and that signs and wonders (miracles 
of healing) might be done through the name of His holy 
servant Jesus. 

Ver. 31. ’EcraXevdr) 6 to7to?— the place was shaken. This 
was evidently a miraculous shaking, as the direct act of God; 
and is not to be explained as a natural event—the accidental 
occurrence of an earthquake (Kuincel, Heinrichs). It is 
here mentioned as the divine answer to the prayer of the 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschiclite , p. 107. 



church; a sign that God had heard their requests, similar 
to the other external and miraculous signs which occurred 
on the day of Pentecost. Both the heathen and the Jews 
thought the earthquake an intimation of the divine presence. 
For the heathen ideas on the subject, see Yirgil, AEn. iii. 89, 
and Ovid, Met. xv. 672. There are also similar references 
in the rabbinical writings, and in the Old Testament. See 
Ps. xxix. 8, lxviii. 8 ; Isa. xxix. 6; Ezek. xxxviii. 19; Joel 
iii. 16; Hab. iii. 6, etc. Baumgarten supposes that the 
shaking of the place where they were assembled was a 
sign that the will of God had power over the foundations 
of the earth; that not only all the might of the world, 
but the world itself, depended for its continuance on the 
divine will. Bengel thinks that it was the symbol that all 
things were about to be shaken by the Gospel. Perhaps, 
however, it is to be regarded merely as an answer to prayer: 
that the disciples were not to be alarmed, seeing that God 
was on their side. The declared favour of God is here 
opposed to the declared hostility of their enemies. And 
accordingly it follows that u they were all filled with the 
Holy Ghost, and spoke the word of God with boldness.” 

Ver. 32. Too 8e nrXrjOovs tmv iricrTevaavrcov , etc. — A?id the 
multitude of believers were of one heart and of one soul. This 
is to be considered as the commencement of a new paragraph, 
descriptive of the state of the church. Four particulars are 
mentioned : unity of spirit, apostolic testimony to the resur¬ 
rection of Christ, great favour upon all the disciples, and 
the community of goods. The first particular is unity of 
spirit: the disciples were of one heart and of one soul,—a 
proverbial expression for the most endearing friendship. As 
in Plutarch, Svo <pl\oi, There was among them 

no difference of sentiment. This was the more remarkable 
when we consider the number of the disciples, now amount¬ 
ing to five thousand. This concord arose from their being 
comparatively free of all selfish aims: they sought not their 
own interests, but the interests of each other. u Not one 
said that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, 
but they had all things common.” 

VOL. I. 




Ver. 33. Kal peydXrj BvvdfieL, etc.— And ivith great power 
gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. 
This is the second particular. It was the peculiar province 
of the apostles to bear witness of the resurrection of Christ 
(Acts i. .22, ii. 32, etc.). This witness they gave with great 
power, either with powerful and effective eloquence ( 7 rap- 
pr/cna, boldness of speech), or by the performance of miracles 
of power. 

Xdpt? re fieyaXTj r)v eVl Travra 9 avrov s'— and great favour 
was upon them all. This is the third particular. These 
words admit of two different meanings, according as we refer 
to men or to God. Some (Calvin, Grotius, Kuinoel, 
Olshausen, Humphry) understand by it, favour among the 
people. They think that the love of believers displayed 
toward each other called forth the admiration of the Jewish 
people, and rendered them favourably disposed {Vide, ut 
sese invicem diligant —Tertullian). This corresponds with 
what Luke had already said, that the disciples had favour 
with all the people (Acts ii. 47). u This served,” observes 
Calvin, u not a little to the diffusion of their doctrine, that 
by assisting the poor they found favour at the hands of 
strangers. They were beloved, because they were bountiful. 
No doubt, also, their honesty, and temperance, and modesty, 
and patience, and other virtues, did provoke many to bear 
them good-will.” Others (Beza, Meyer, De Wette, Baum- 
garten, Lechler, Alford, Wordsworth, Hackett) understand 
by it divine favour, the grace of God. According to this 
opinion, was not the result of their liberality among 

themselves, but its cause. It is difficult to determine which is 
the more correct meaning, inasmuch as each meaning gives a 
good sense, and suits the context. If a preference is to be 
given, we would say that, upon the whole, the second mean¬ 
ing is in more logical connection with what follows —ovSe yap 
ev8e7]s rt? inrf/p^eu. The word can hardly have, as Bengel 
supposes, two different meanings, and signify both favour 
with the people and the grace of God. 

Yers. 34, 35. The fourth particular mentioned in these 
verses is the community of goods. This will require more 



consideration. It was formerly mentioned by Luke in cli. 
ii. 4-4, 45. The expressions are too strong to permit ns 
to suppose, that all that is meant is merely that the disciples 
were extremely generous and liberal—that they gave freely 
of their substance (De Wette). There was obviously, in 
some sense, an actual community of goods; and it will not 
do to say, with De Wette, that Luke here exaggerates. And 
yet we must not go to the other extreme, and suppose that 
all property ceased among the Christians ; that they sold all 
their possessions and goods, and placed them in a common 
fund, out of which all were supported. The words certainly 
at first sight would seem to imply as much; but there are 
several considerations which render such a meaning im¬ 

It would appear that this community of goods, whatever 
is meant by it, was entirely confined to Jerusalem. There 
is no trace of it in any of the epistles, or in the Acts of the 
Apostles, except as regards the church in Jerusalem. On 
the contrary, the whole charge which is given in Scripture 
for almsgiving, all the rules which are laid down to the rich, 
the different degrees of rank recognised in Scripture, the 
warnings against covetousness, and the exhortations to bene¬ 
volence, clearly demonstrate that nothing resembling a com¬ 
munity of goods existed in the Christian church at large. 
Indeed, it does not seem to have continued long in Jerusalem. 
It was instituted to meet existing emergencies, when the 
church was poor, weak, and feeble; and when the circum¬ 
stances of the case were altered, it was abandoned. Meyer, 
with whom Alford agrees, thinks that this may explain the 
great poverty of the church of Jerusalem—that by this 
method their possessions were naturally soon exhausted. He 
also thinks that their expectation of the near approach of the 
second advent made them put the less value on their earthly 
possessions, and might have contributed to this community of 

Another thing to be remarked is, that this community of 
goods was perfectly voluntary on the part of the disciples. 
There was no law in the church, no apostolic injunction 



which hound believers to sell their lands, and to place their 
money in a common fund. This is evident from what 
Peter said to Ananias: “ Whilst thy possession remained, 
was it not thine own ? and after it was sold, was it not in 
thine own power'?” (Acts v. 4); the natural meaning of 
this being, that Ananias might have done with it what he 
pleased. His sin did not consist in giving only part of the 
price to the apostles, but in pretending that, in giving that 
part, he was giving the whole. This community of goods, 
then, was not a matter of law, but of love. As Neander 
well observes, u the community of goods practised by the first 
Christians, whatever form we suppose it to have taken, was 
something that was formed from within : it was the natural 
expression of a spirit which bound them all to one another. 
Everything here must have proceeded from the power of 
the one Spirit, must have depended solely on the free act 
of the pure disposition; nothing was effected by the force of 
outward law.” 

And further still, it does not appear that this community 
of goods was a universal custom, so that all the disciples 
(not of constraint, but voluntarily) disposed of their pos¬ 
sessions, and put the proceeds into one common fund. Cer¬ 
tainly, at first sight, the words u such as were possessors of 
fields and houses sold them, and brought the prices of the 
things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet,” 
seem to favour such a view. (See also Acts ii. 44, 45.) 
But if this were the case, the goods of the church would 
soon have been consumed; nor would the instance of Bar¬ 
nabas have been adduced as anything remarkable. We read 
also afterwards of Mary the mother of John, surnamed 
Mark, possessing a house in Jerusalem (Acts xii. 12). But 
although not a universal custom, yet it was probably prettv 
general. Many, though not all, sold their houses and pos¬ 
sessions, and put the money in a common fund, which was 
placed at the disposal of the apostles. 

It would appear, then, that by the community of goods is 
meant, not that the disciples lived in common, and that all 
property ceased among them, but that a common fund was 



instituted. The disciples were actuated by the spirit of love 
toward each other, which impelled them to regard the neces¬ 
sities of their brethren as their own. Not only did they give 
largely of their wealth, but many placed the whole of it at 
the disposal of the apostles. u In the Acts of the Apostles,” 
says St. Jerome, u when the blood of our Lord was yet warm, 
and a young faith was glowing in the believers, they sold all 
their possessions, and laid the price of them at the apostles’ 
feet, to show that money was worthy of no regard.” Out of 
this common fund the wants of the poor were supplied; 
there was a daily distribution to the widows (ch. vi. 1) ; 
there was none among the disciples that needed (ch. iv. 34). 
Perhaps also the expenses of the Agaprn were defrayed out 
of it: for we find that it was afterwards the custom for the 
rich to bring of their provisions to supply the wants of their 
poorer brethren. Thus, in the first glow of Christian life, 
the disciples put into actual practice the precept of our 
Lord: u Sell that ye have, and give alms ; provide for your¬ 
selves bags that wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that 
faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth cor¬ 
rupted ” (Luke xii. 33). 

Grotius, Heinrichs, and other writers, suppose that the 
church borrowed this idea of a community of goods from 
the Essenes. We learn from Josephus that this Jewish sect 
possessed such an institution. u These men,” he observes, 
u are despisers of riches. Nor is there any one to be found 
among them who has more than another : for it is a law 
among them, that those who come to them must let what 
they have be common to the whole order; insomuch that 
among them all there is no appearance of poverty or excess 
of riches, but every one’s possessions are intermingled with 
every other’s possessions : and so there is, as it were, one 
patrimony among all the brethren ” (Bell. Jud. ii. 8. 3). 
But this community of the Essenes was with them a com¬ 
pulsory act: it was founded on law, not on voluntary offer¬ 
ings. And besides, there is no trace of a connection between 
the apostles and that sect. It does not appear that at this 
time the church had come in contact with them. 



In every age of the church there have been imitations of 
this community of goods, such as the various orders of monks, 
the mendicant friars, the Apostolici, etc.; but they have all 
failed, because they interpreted that as an institution of per¬ 
manent and universal obligation, which was only designed 
to meet a present emergency; and because, moreover, they 
attempted to regulate by law that which, to succeed at all, 
must proceed from voluntary love : they made that a matter 
of external regulations, which can only be effected by the 
power of love operating from within. But although the 
external practice of community of goods is by no means to 
be imitated, yet the spirit of love which gave rise to it is 
to be imbibed. We should, like these early Christians, 
regard our possessions as not our own, but as given us by 
God, to be employed in His service, and for the good of 
our brethren ; and thus, in this sense, u no one should say 
that ought of the things which he possessed was his own,” 
but that all should be employed for the common good . 1 / 
Ver. 36. ’ Icoerrjcj ;>, 6 eirucKpOeis Bapvdfia 9 — Joseph , ivho 
ivas called Barnabas . This is the well-known Barnabas, the 

companion of Paul. He has been confounded with Joseph 
Barsabbas, one of the candidates for the apostleship (Acts 
i. 23) ; but the names are entirely different. The name 
Barnabas was given to him by the apostles, in a similar 
manner as the names Peter and Boanerges were given by 
our Lord. The word is compounded of Bar and Nabi, and 
literally signifies the son of a prophet, or of prophecy. It 
is here translated by Luke u /09 'rrapaKkpaeods, that is, the 
son of exhortation or consolation ; for the word 7 rapdfc\r]ai^ 
includes both ideas. According to the New Testament lan- 
guage, prophecy is not so much the prediction of the future, 
as an inspired discourse—spiritual insight—and consequently 
embraces both exhortation and consolation ; and therefore 
Luke, in his interpretation of the name, might well use the 
word 7rapdic\7](T0 ? instead of 7 Tpo^rj-rela (Olshausen). Bar¬ 
nabas was probably so called on account of his remarkable 

1 There is an excellent and exhaustive note on the community of goods 
in Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte, pp. 77-79, Dritte Auflage. 



powers of exhorting the people, and administering to them 
consolation. (See Acts xi. 23.) Elsewhere he is designated 
a prophet (Acts xiii. 1). He is here said to be a Levite, 
as distinguished perhaps from a priest ; and a native of 
Cyprus, and therefore a Hellenist. According to tradition, 
he was one of our Lord’s seventy disciples. u It is unneces¬ 
sary,” observes Clemens Alexandrinus, u for me to use more 
words, when I can bring forward the apostolic Barnabas : for 
he was one of the seventy, and a fellow-worker with Paul” 
(Clem. Alex. Strom, ii.). u No catalogue,” says Eusebius, 
u is given of the seventy disciples : Barnabas is said to be 
one of them, of whom there is distinguished notice in the 
Acts of the Apostles” (Hist. Heel. i. 12). 

There is an epistle still extant which claims to have been 
written by Barnabas. It is often quoted by the Fathers, 
especially by Clemens Alexandrinus and Origen. Eusebius 
in one portion of his history regards it as spurious (Hist. 
Heel. iii. 26), and in another place be says that its genuine¬ 
ness is disputed (Hist. Heel. vi. 14). Its authenticity is now 
generally given up, and it is regarded as a work of the 
second century. 1 

Ver. 37. f Tirdp^ovT o? avrw aypov, etc .—having a field , sold 
it. Baumgarten supposes that it was not allowable for him 
as a Levite to possess land, and that therefore he sold his 
possession, and delivered the proceeds to the apostles. But 
this, from the well-known instance of Jeremiah to the con¬ 
trary (Jer.. xxxii. 7), appears to be a mistaken notion. And 
if, before the captivity, the priests and Levites were accus¬ 
tomed to possess lands, this custom would prevail afterwards 
to a greater extent, when the special provisions of the law of 
Moses concerning heritages could not be strictly observed. 
The question arises, Why, if believers in general sold their 
possessions, is this instance of Barnabas so prominently 
brought forward ? Meyer supposes that he is mentioned 

1 The Epistle of Barnabas does not, we think, after a careful perusal, 
bear any internal marks of spuriousness, and does not appear, as has 
been asserted, to be the work of an Ebionite. The sentiments contained 
in it are in agreement with the writings of the apostles. 



only as an example of what was general, so that there was 
nothing remarkable in what he did. But it rather appears 
that he is here distinguished from others, and held forth as 
an illustrious example. He surpassed the other disciples in 
his generosity; either because the sacrifice which he made 
was greater and more complete, or because the sale of pos¬ 
sessions was not universal, or because he set a striking and 
edifying example. 



CHURCH.— Acts v. 1-16. 

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a 
possession, 2 And purloined part of the price, his wife also being 
aware of it; and having brought a certain part, laid it at the feet of the 
apostles. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, wherefore has Satan filled thine 
heart to deceive the Holy Ghost, and to purloin part of the price of the 
land ? 4 When it remained, was it not thine own ? and when it was 

sold, was it not in thy power ? Wherefore hast thou entertained this 
thing in thy heart? Thou hast not lied to men, hut to God. 5 And 
Ananias hearing these words, falling down, expired : and great fear came 
on all who heard it. 6 And the young men arising, wound him up, and 
carried him out, and buried him. 7 And it came to pass, after the 
interval of about three hours, his wife came in, not knowing what had 
happened. 8 And Peter answered her, Tell me whether ye sold the 
land for so much ? And she said, Yes, for so much. 9 Then Peter 
said to her, Wherefore have ye concerted together to tempt the Spirit of 
the Lord ? Behold, the feet of those who have buried thy husband are 
at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10 Then immediately she fell 
down at his feet, and expired; and the young men coming in found 
her dead, and having carried her out, buried her by her husband. 
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon all who heard 
these things. 

12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders 
wrought among the people. And they were all together in Solomon’s 
porch. 13 But of the rest no one presumed to join themselves to 
them : but the people magnified them. 14 And believers were the 
more added to the Lord, a multitude both of men and women; 15 So 

that they brought forth the sick to the streets, and laid them on beds 
and couches, that at the least, as Peter passed, his shadow might over¬ 
shadow some of them. 16 There came together also a multitude from 
the neighbouring cities to Jerusalem, bringing the sick, and those who 
were vexed with unclean spirits : who were all healed. 


The external danger to which the church was exposed by 
the hostility of the rulers had only the effect of increasing 




its boldness and confidence in Christ; but now an internal 
danger arises much more to be dreaded. The most noble 
virtue of the church—its unselfishness—is in danger of being 
perverted; and covetousness and falsehood display themselves 
in the matter of the community of goods. u These things,” 
observes Calvin, u which Luke hath hitherto reported, did 
show that that company which was gathered together in the 
name of Christ was rather a company of angels than of 
men. Moreover, that was incredible virtue, that the rich 
did despoil themselves of their own accord, not only of their 
money, but also of their land, that they might relieve the 
poor. But now he showeth that Satan had invented a shift 
to get into that holy company, and that under the colour of 
such excellent virtue.” 1 

Ver. 1. ’Avrjp £>e rt? 'Avavlas, etc .—But a certain man 
named Ananias. Ananias is introduced as a contrast to 
Barnabas. Barnabas freely disposed of his possession for 
the good of the church; but (Se) a certain man named 
Ananias acted differently. We are not informed who 
Ananias was; but it is probable that he was one of the 
richer members of the church, as he had landed property to 
dispose of. 

Ver. 2. ^Biradk-qae /crri/aa, Ka\ ivoacplcraTO dno t TL/arj 9 — 
sold a possession, and purloined part of the price. The sin of 
Ananias consisted in this: he sold his possession professedly 
for the good of the church ; but instead of giving the whole 
sum, he retained a part for himself, and the other part he 
laid at the apostles’ feet, pretending that it was the whole 
amount which he had received. Ilis sin did not consist in 
retaining part of the price—he was at liberty to give or not 
to give, as he pleased: he might with a safe conscience have 
given either the whole or a part—there was in this matter no 
compulsion. But his guilt lay in the falsehood of his asser¬ 
tion that the part which he actually gave was the whole—in 
his attempt to deceive the apostles, who were under the 
guidance of the Holy Ghost. It is not mentioned how 
much he retained, but probably it was only a small portion, 
1 Calvin’s Commentaries —Acts v. 1. 



as otherwise it would have appeared that he had sold his 
land for too small a sum, and consequently might have been 

The motive which induced Ananias to commit this sin 
was vanity, or the love of ostentation. Seeing others giving 
liberally for the support of the church, he desired also to be 
looked upon as charitable and liberal. He was in reality 
covetous, and yet he wished to be regarded as charitable ; 
and hence it was that he played the hypocrite. (C It is pro¬ 
bable,” as Olshausen observes, u that among the new Chris¬ 
tians a kind of holy rivalry had sprung up : every one was 
eager to place his superfluous means at the disposal of the 
church. Now this zeal actuated many a one who was not in 
heart properly freed from attachment to earthly things; and 
thus it happened that Ananias, too, sold some property, but 
afterwards secretly kept back part of the price. Vanity was 
the motive of the sale, hy po crisy the motive of the conceal¬ 
ment. He wished to appear as disinterested as others, and 
yet he could not let go his hold of mammon.” 1 Lechler 
supposes, that actuated by generous motives he sold his pos¬ 
session ; but that when he received the money his covetous¬ 
ness was excited, and he could not think of parting with 
the whole of it. 

Ver. 3. Ehre be Uerpo?— but Peter said. Peter discerns 
his falsehood. It is not said how Peter obtained his know¬ 
ledge ; but the words imply that it was by divine inspiration, 
because he not only recognised the crime, but its heinous¬ 
ness, and the corrupt disposition from which it arose. Atari 
eif\i]pa>crav 6 Xaravds rrjv napblav crov — Wherefore has Satan 
filled thine heart ? The question is one of stern reproof: 
Why hast thou permitted Satan to do it ?—implying that he 
might have resisted Satan. All that Satan can do is to 
tempt, not to constrain men to sin (Jas. iv. 7; 1 Pet. v. 9). 
Ananias should have had his heart filled with the Holy 
Ghost, instead of permitting Satan to take possession of it. 
WevaaaOal ae to Hvevpta to cvytov — to deceive the Iloly 
Ghost; not, as in the authorized version, to lie to the Holy 

1 Olshausen’s Commentary on the Gospels and Acts. vol. iv. p. 297. 



Ghost. WevaaaOaL constructed with the dative is to lie to; 


but constructed with the accusative, it is to deceive (Lechler, 
Robinson’s Lexicon). This expresses the design of Satan 
in filling the heart: it was to deceive the Holy Ghost, that 
is, the apostles, who were actuated by the Holy Ghost. 

“ He,” says Paul, u that despiseth, despiseth not man, but 
God, who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 
iv. 8). And so also the attempt to deceive Peter and the 
other apostles was in reality an attempt to deceive the Holy 
Ghost, who resided within them. 

Ver. 4. Ov^l fievovy croc efievev—When it remained , ivas 
it not thine own ? It evidently appears from this that the 
disciples were not obliged by an apostolic command to sell 
their goods, and to put their money into a common fund. 
Ananias might have done with his field and money what he 
pleased. Ti otl edov iv rrj naphla crov to TTpay/ia tovto — 
literally, Why hast thou put this thing in thy heart ? Why hast 
thou permitted such a sinful idea to take possession of thy 
mind ? There is no contradiction between this and the fact 
that it was Satan who filled his heart. Satan suggested the 

idea, and Ananias entertained it in his heart. Ov/c i^evaco 
dvOpwirois^ dWa ra> 0ec3 — Thou hast not lied to men , but to 
God. The expression is not to be weakened, as if it meant 
only that Ananias lied not so much unto men as unto God ; 
but that his sin against men was nothing in comparison with 
his sin against God. So also David, even in the case of the 
murder of Uriah, takes the same view of his guilt: “ Against 
Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy 
sight” (Ps. li. 4). As Lange well observes, “the objective 
weight of his guilt does not consist in this, that by this em¬ 
bezzlement he became a deceiver of the brethren. This 
vileness vanishes, as if it were nothing compared with the 
wickedness that he ventured by fraud to attempt to deceive 
the Spirit of the church.” 1 

This verse has been often and justly quoted as a proof of 
the personality and divinity of the Holy Ghost. If he that 
deceiveth or lieth to the Holy Ghost, deceiveth or lieth not 

1 Lange’s das apostolische Zeitalter , vol. ii. p. 65. 



to man, but to God, it is a proof that the Holy Ghost is God. 
In attempting to deceive Peter and the other apostles, 
Ananias lied unto men ; but in attempting to deceive the 
Holy Ghost, he lied unto God. 1 

Ver. 5. The sudden death of Ananias has been variously 
understood. Some (Ammon, Heinrichs) suppose that it was 
a stroke of apoplexy, brought on by terror and the unex¬ 
pected disclosure of his hypocrisy. But this does not 
account for the death of Sapphira, inasmuch as it was ' 
expressly foretold by Peter; and besides, it would suppose 
that two persons were equally susceptible to such an unusual L 
effect of terror. Most German critics (Lange, Olshausen, 
Neander, Baumgarten, Lechler) suppose that here the 
natural and the supernatural were united ; that the psycho¬ 
logical aspect of the case—the effect which the discovery of 
his hypocrisy would have upon Ananias—ought not to be 
overlooked. a When,” observes Neander, u we reflect what 
Peter was in the eyes of Ananias, how the superstitious 
hypocrite must have been confounded and thunderstruck to 
see his falsehood detected, how the holy denunciations of a 
man speaking to his conscience, with such divine confidence, 
must have acted on his terrified feelings, we shall not find 
it very difficult to conceive how the words of the apostle 
would produce so great an effect. The divine and the 
natural seem here to have been closely connected.” 2 But 
we do not see how this opinion essentially differs from that 
of the nationalists, that the death was merely a natural 
occurrence. The design of the entire narrative (as is 
especially seen in the case of Sapphira) is to represent the* 
death of Ananias as a direct act of God, inflicted on him by 
reason of his sin (De Wette, Meyer). 

But here arises the question as to Peter’s connection with 
the death of Ananias. Were his words an actual sentence 
of death, miraculously carried into execution ? Meyer 
asserts that the sudden death of the two is to be regarded 
as a result effected by the will of the apostle, by means of 

1 See the excellent remarks of Bengel on this subject. 

2 Neander’s Planting of the Church , vol. i. p. 28, Bohn's edition. 



the miraculous power residing within him; and that especially 
in the case of Sapphira, Peter, without the consciousness 
of his will being here an active element, could not have 
addressed her as he did without the greatest presumption. 1 
Others, again, desirous of vindicating Peter from a supposed 
charge, assert that all that Peter did in the case of Ananias 
was merely to disclose his sin, and in the case of Sapphira 
he merely foretold her impending fate (Baumgarten, Lechler). 
But although the statement of Meyer is too strongly ex¬ 
pressed, it comes nearer the truth. Peter was here the 
organ of the Holy Ghost; his address to both was an actual 
sentence of death upon them. It was not indeed Peter who 
killed them; God Himself was the direct agent. It is 
indeed quite possible that, in the case of Ananias, Peter 
himself was taken by surprise when death was the immediate 
result of his address; but this will not hold good in the case 
of Sapphira, for Peter expressly announced her death: 
u Behold, the feet of those who have buried thy husband are 
at the door, and shall carry thee out.” Doubtless Peter 
would pronounce their doom with sadness; but the burden 
was laid upon him, and he could not shrink from performing 
the duty. The same apostle who had himself fallen so 
deeply as to deny the Lord, was chosen to denounce the 
severity of the divine justice. 

Ver. 6. ’ Avao-rdvres Be ol vecorepoL—and the young men 
arising. These are the same who are called in ver. 10 
ol veavLGKOL. Some (Olshausen, Neander, Meyer, Mosheim, 
Kuinoel, Cook) suppose that these were official servants of 
the church, occupying a position similar to that of the 
acolytes at a later period. But there is no reason to believe 
that such an ecclesiastical order then existed. The only 
order as yet mentioned is the apostleship: the deaconship 
had not yet been instituted, and the eldership is not men¬ 
tioned until ch. xi. 30. Hence the opinion of those, that the 
young men are here mentioned on account of their age, as 
being the most suitable to perform such an office, is to be 
preferred. So De Wette, Neander, Rothe, Lechler. 

1 Mever, Apostelgescliichte , p. 113, Dritte Auflage. 



X vvecrreiXav avrov — wound him up. The meaning of the 
verb avareWeiv is doubtful. The common interpretation is 
that of the authorized version, where the verb is used in the 
sense of iTepicrTeWeLv —to prepare for burial, by washing, 
winding up in dead-clothes, etc. Meyer renders it placed 
together; and thinks that the young men laid out the 
stiffened limbs, in order to carry the body more easily away. 
He Wette renders it covered him , and the Vulgate removed 
him ,—meanings which the word will hardly admit. Kal 
e^eveytcavres edatyav—-and having carried him out ) buried 
him. By reason of their law 7 s concerning the uncleanness 
of contact with a dead body (Num. xix. 11), the dead among 
the Jews were interred as soon as possible. It is still, in the 
East, the frequent custom to bury a person the same day on 
which he died, as corruption commences almost immediately 
after death, on account of the warmth of the climate. 
u Among the present inhabitants of Jerusalem,” we are 
informed, “ burial, as a general rule, is not deferred more 
than three or four hours.” 

Ver. 7. ’ Eyevero Se &>? cbpcov rpiwv SLaargga—And it came 
to pass after an interval of about three hours. Three hours 
appear to have elapsed between the departure of the young 
men to bury Ananias and their return. This may well have 
been the case, as they had to prepare the grave ; and parti¬ 
cularly if, as is most probable, the place of sepulture was at 
a distance from Jerusalem. The Jews, in general, buried 
outside of their cities. 

Kal r) yvvg avrov , etc.— His wife came in , not knowing 
ichat had happened. His wife was privy to the fraud, but 
was ignorant of her husband’s doom. How she could have 
remained ignorant of such a striking event for three hours 
after its occurrence, appears indeed strange ; but circum¬ 
stances which we know not might have been the occasion of 
it. Perhaps no one had the courage to inform her of the 
dreadful fate of her husband. 

Ver. 8. ’ Aire/cplOr) Se avry o ITerpo?— And Peter answered 
her. Her entrance into the assembly of the saints was 
equivalent to her speaking (Bengel). Tell me whether ye 



sold the land for so much ? pointing, as Meyer supposes, to 
the money still lying before him ; or rather, for so much as 
Ananias said—for so much as he wished to put into the 
common fund. 

Yer. 9. 0 he Tlerpos 7 rpo? avryv — But Peter said to 

her. Peter, as the organ of the Holy Ghost, announces her 
doom. As she was a sharer in the guilt of her husband, so 
she was also to be a partaker of his punishment. “ Where¬ 
fore have ye concerted together to tempt the Spirit of the 
LordV ’ He expresses at once his surprise and detestation 
of their attempt to deceive the Holy Ghost. To tempt the 
Spirit of the Lord, is to put to the proof whether the Holy 
Spirit ruling in the apostles could be deceived. Behold , the 
feet of them that buried thy husband are at the door , and shall 
carry thee out: either a forcible expression, announcing her 
immediate death ; or the statement of what was an actual 
fact, that the young men who had buried her husband were 
now on their return standing outside at the door. 

Yer. 10. ''En-ecrehe 7 Tapa^prjfia^ etc.— And immediately she 
fell down at his feet ,, and expired. As in the case of Ananias, 
Sapphira fell down dead immediately after the address of 
the apostle. The language of Peter to her will not permit 
us to suppose that he was ignorant of the fate that awaited 
her; nor will the words allow us to regard her death in 
any other light than as a supernatural occurrence. 

Yer. 11 . Kal iyevero (pofios gbeya? — And great fear came 
upon all the church, and upon all who heard these things. 
Here we are informed of the effects which these judgments 
had upon the church and upon the world. Great fear came 
upon all the church : fear of the divine justice, and of the 
punishment which would befall all similar transgressors. 
The church is never happier than when the sons of false¬ 
hood are either expelled from it, or deterred from intruding 
into it. If its numbers are less numerous, it is an ample 
compensation that its members are purer. Great fear also 
came upon all those who heard these things. Those who 
were not Christians would be impressed with the idea that 
there was something supernatural about the apostles, and 



thus would regard them with religious awe. a Without 
doubt,” observes Bengel, 11 the rulers of the Jews also heard 
of these things; and yet they did not institute proceedings 
on that account against Peter.” 

The punishment inflicted on Ananias and Sapphira has 
been often denounced as too severe, and not in accordance 
with the merciful spirit of the gospel. Even in the early 
ages, Porphyry accused Peter of cruelty, and the Fathers 
undertook his defence. The same charge has been repeated 
in modern times by De Wette. “ The cruelty,” he observes, 
u formerly charged upon the apostle, and which is especially 
shown in this, that the husband was buried quickly, without 
the knowledge of his wife, cannot be justified on the ground 
that such a warning was necessary. Did Christianity at this 
time require such aid? Must the Holy Ghost kill sinners 
in the midst of their sins?” 1 But, as has been well an¬ 
swered, it is not Peter who is here animadverted upon, but 
God : God Himself was the direct agent in their deaths ; 
Peter was the mere instrument employed. u The Apostle 
Peter,” says St. Jerome, a by no means calls down death 
upon them, as the foolish Porphyry falsely lays to his charge, 
but by a prophetic spirit announces the judgment of God, 
that the punishment of two persons might be the instruction 
of many.” 

Still, however, it may be said that this is but shifting the 
difficulty. Simon the magician, and Elymas the sorcerer, 
were for similar, or even greater, crimes more lightly dealt 
with. Miracles of mercy, and not those of judgment, are 
more in accordance with the spirit of the gospel. u As to the 
death of Ananias and Sapphira,” observes Dr. Davidson, u it 
is evidently set forth as the miraculous, instantaneous effect 
of Peter’s words. This, with the harshness of the divinely 
inflicted punishment, which is out of character with the 
gospel history, prevents the critic from accepting the fact as 
historical—at least in the way it is told.” 2 The following 
considerations have to be taken into account:—1. The sin 

1 De Wette’s Apostelgeschiclite, p. 56, Dritte Auflage. 

2 Davidson’s New Introduction , vol. ii. p. 243. 

VOL. I. 






of Ananias, objectively considered, was by no means such 
a light crime as it at first sight appears. It was not only a 
falsehood, an attempt to deceive the apostles, but a complica¬ 
tion of iniquity. There entered into it vanity and hypocrisy, 
covetousness and fraud, impiety and contempt of God. It 
was also a deliberate act of wickedness, preconcerted between 
him and his wife. 2. We must attend not merely to the 
actual sin, but to the person who committed it. Ananias 
was a member of the Christian church: he had, in all pro¬ 
bability, with the rest received the Holy Ghost; and hence 
he was in the enjoyment of greater privileges, and under 
heavier responsibilities, than either Simon or Elymas. A sin 
committed by him was more heinous than a similar or greater 
sin committed by them (Olshausen : Heb. vi. 4-6). 3. The 

sin of Ananias was directly against the Holy Ghost. He 
was accused by Peter of deceiving the Holy Ghost. The 
Holy Ghost at this time obviously actuated the apostles. In¬ 
deed, there is some ground for the remark of Olshausen: 
“ It almost appears as if the act of Ananias were represented 
as a sin against the Holy Ghost, which would explain the 
fact that all admonition to repentance, and all mention of 
pardon, are wanting. The apostles in this case only exercise 
the prerogative of retaining sin.” 1 4. But the chief reason 

of this severity appears to be, that the sin was committed at 
the commencement of Christianity. It was essentially neces¬ 
sary that the purity of Christianity should be protected and 
vindicated at its outset. In like manner, at the commence¬ 
ment of the Mosaic dispensation, similar severe punishments 
were inflicted. Nadab and Abihu were struck dead for offer¬ 
ing up strange fire; Korah and his company were slain for 
opposing Moses and Aaron ; and a man was put to death for 
gathering sticks on the Sabbath-day. On the entrance of 
the Israelites into Canaan, and the establishment of the 
worship of Jehovah in that country, Achan was slain for 
purloining a Babylonish garment. And therefore it seemed 
also fit that the first great offence under the gospel should 

1 Olshausen on the Gospels and the Acts , vol. iv. p. 298, Clark’s trans¬ 



receive an exemplary punishment. This would also most 
effectually deter any dishonest and hypocritical persons from 
joining the church ; and especially any from doing so merely 
for the sake of receiving alms; not to mention that it would 
also prevent spies intruding among the disciples. 

Vers. 12-16. This is a new paragraph, descriptive of the 
progress of the church, but in close connection with the pre¬ 
ceding. These verses are somewhat intricate, and some of 
the statements apparently contradictory; and hence various 
attempts have been made to render them more perspicuous. 
Our English version connects the first part of ver. 12 with 
ver. 15, and regards the intervening sentences from teal rjaav 
(ver. 12) to 7 vvaucwv (ver. 14) as a parenthesis. But this is 
at variance with the laws which regulate parentheses among 
the Greeks. Lachmann conceives ver. 14 only to be a 
parenthesis; but, as Winer observes, the words oocrre Kara 
7rXare/a? i/ccfrepeiv too 9 aadevels are as appropriately 
connected with ver. 14 as with ver. 13 1 (see note). Others, 
again, in defiance of all critical evidence, regard ver. 14 as 
an interpolation ; and others suggest various unauthorized 
transpositions of sentences. The words are to be taken 
simply as they are ; and there is no necessity to have re¬ 
course to any conjectures in the form of parentheses, emen¬ 
dations, transpositions, or interpolations. 

Ver. 12. Kal rjaav ofioOvyiahov arravre^ — and they were all 
with one accord. It is doubtful who are meant by diravre ?. 
Some (Baur, Kuinoel, Alford, Hackett) suppose that the 
apostles only are meant. They are the last mentioned, and 
consequently the word all seems naturally to refer to them 
as its antecedent. But there is nothing in the Acts to lead 
us to suppose that the apostles thus kept themselves aloof 
from the other disciples: on the contrary, we are, a few 
verses before, informed that all the disciples were of one 
heart and of one soul. By enravres, then, is rather to be 
understood the disciples in general, as is the case in ch. ii. 1 , 
where the same words are employed. The objection to this 

1 See Winer’s Grammar of the New Testament , p. 586, Clark’s trans¬ 



opinion is, that the disciples were now so numerous, that 
those in charge of the temple would not permit them to 
crowd together in Solomon’s porch. But to this it may be 
answered, that, on the one hand, it is not to be understood 
absolutely that all the disciples were present at the same 
time; and, on the other hand, we are expressly informed 
that at this period the people were impressed with a sense of 
religious awe toward the disciples, on account of which they 
would leave them undisturbed. Perhaps the great number 
of the disciples was the very reason why they assembled in 
a court so capacious as that of Solomon’s porch. (See note 
to Acts iii. 11.) 

Yer. 13. Twv Se Xolttwv— but of the rest no one presumed 
to join himself to them. Different meanings have been attached 
to toov \oLircvv. According to some (Baur, Lightfoot, and 
others), believers are meant: u none of the rest of the dis¬ 
ciples ventured to equal themselves to the apostles they 
kept at a distance from them, regarding them as superhuman. 
But this opinion gives an evidently erroneous view of the re¬ 
lation between the apostles and the church; and besides, the 
verb KoWdco does not mean to equal or compare with , but to 
associate or unite with. Others (Kuinoel, Alford) understand 
the rest who were in Solomon’s porch to be partly believers 
and partly unbelievers; but this opinion depends upon under¬ 
standing arrravTes of the previous verse to denote the apostles 
exclusively. Others render it, u none of their enemies dare 
attack them,”— a meaning which KoWaaSai cannot bear. 
Others restrict the expression to the rich and noble, that 
they were terrified by the judgment inflicted on Ananias, 
who belonged to their class; but this is an arbitrary suppo¬ 
sition. If by airavTCs of ver. 12 is to be understood believers 
generally, then by twv Xourcov, as contrasted with them, is 
to be understood unbelievers (Bengel, Meyer, De Wette, 
Decider). The meaning seems to be, that none of the rest 
of the people ventured on false pretences to unite themselves 
to the church: by the death of Ananias, an effectual stop 
was put to hypocrisy for a time. 

Yer. 14. MaXkov Se irpocreTiOevTo , etc .—but believers were 


the more added to the Lord. The construction admits of rw 
Kvpicp being united to irLarevovre ?— believers in the Tjord 
were the more added; but ch. xi. 24 decides for its union with 
1 TTpocrerldevTo (Meyer). By tm Kvplw here is evidently meant 
Christ. The salutary fear of hypocrisy did not cause any 
temporary pause in the diffusion of the gospel: on the con¬ 
trary, multitudes, impressed with its truth, were converted. 

It was a season of sifting: the gospel repelled some, and y/ 
attracted others. 

Vers. 15, 16. These verses record the miracles which were 
performed by the apostles, and especially by Peter, "flare — 
so that. a From the two facts, that the apostles were held in 
estimation, and the number of believers had increased, it is 
to be understood why the sick should have been brought out 
into the streets” (Winer). Stress is here laid upon the faith 
of those who applied for healing. In the case of the lame 
man, faith was subsequent to the miracle: here it preceded .V 
Kara Ta? 'ifkareia^ — along the streets ; i.e., the sick were 
carried out from their houses to the streets. Kdv (/cal edv )— V 
if at least. The expression is rhetorical: the sick were anxious 
that something belonging to Peter might touch them, even 
if it were only his shadow. To TrXrjOos twv irepc^ TroXewv — 
multitudes from the neighbouring cities. Such was the fame 
of the miracles, that many from the cities adjoining Jeru¬ 
salem brought their sick, and they were all healed. 

The special difficulty connected with these verses is, that V 
Peter’s shadow is said to have effected miraculous cures. To 
this it is replied, that this was only the opinion of the people, 
and that Luke does not assert that the cures were effected ^ 
bv the shadow. But still it must be confessed that the 
impression which the words convey is, that the people not v 
only sought for cures in this manner, but that these cures 
were actually wrought. There are analogous instances re¬ 
corded in the evangelical history: as when the woman with 
the issue of blood was cured by the mere touch of the 
Saviour’s garment (Matt. ix. 21, 22) ; and when cures were 
effected by handkerchiefs and aprons taken from the body 
of Paul (Acts xix. 12). The remarks of Lange on this 



subject are judicious: u To the shadow of Peter,” he observes, 
“ a healing virtue is plainly ascribed for all the sick on whom 
it rested. But it is evident, first, that here only those are 
spoken of who had faith in the miraculous powers of the 
apostles; secondly, it is only mentioned as the opinion of the 
favourably disposed among the people, that even the shadow 
of Peter could heal; thirdly, it is indicated by the very form 
of the expression that they sought the laying on of Peter’s 
hands, but that in case of necessity they would be content 
with his shadow overshadowing them; not to mention that 
there is something figurative in this expression, which points 
out the fact that the sick expected a cure from every contact 
with Peter.” 1 

It is evident that in the early part of the Acts, and espe¬ 
cially in this passage, a pre-eminence is given to Peter. 2 Here 
the other apostles sink into the shade; and Peter is brought 
forward as working miracles, so much so that a miraculous 
virtue is ascribed, whether in the mere opinion of the people 
or in truth, to his shadow. We do not see how this pre¬ 
eminence can be denied; and certainly we must not permit 
ourselves, from dogmatic views on the subject, to attempt to 
explain it away. 

1 Lange’s das Apostolische Zeitalter, vol. ii. p. 67. 

2 See note to Acts i. 15. 



17 Then the high priest arose, and all who were with him, which is 
the sect of the Sadducees, and were filled with zeal; 18 And they laid 

hands on the apostles, and put them in the public prison. 19 But an 
angel of the Lord by night, having opened the doors of the prison, and 
brought them forth, said, 20 “ Go, and standing, speak in the temple 
to the people all the words of this life.” 21 And when they heard that, 
they entered into the temple at the dawn of day, and taught. But the 
high priest having arrived, and they who were with him, summoned the 
Sanhedrim, and all the eldership of the children of Israel; and they 
sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But the officers, when 
they came, found them not in the prison ; and returning, brought infor¬ 
mation, 23 Saying, The prison we found shut in all security, and the 
keepers standing at the doors; but when we had opened, we found no 
man within. 24 But when the priest and the captain of the temple and 
the chief priests heard these words, they were in perplexity concerning 
them, what this thing would become. 25 Then came one and informed 
them, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are in the temple stand¬ 
ing, and teaching the people. 26 Then the captain with the officers 
went, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, 
lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they 
set them before the Sanhedrim : and the high priest asked them, saying, 
28 “We have strictly commanded you not to teach in this name; and 
behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring 
upon us the blood of this man.” 29 Then Peter and the apostles 
answering, said, “ We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God 
of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, having hanged Him on a 
tree. 31 Him has God exalted by His right hand as a Prince and a 
Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And 
we are His witnesses of these things ; and so is also the Holy Ghost, 
whom God has given to those who obey Him.” 33 When they heard 
this, they were enraged, and took counsel to slay them. 34 Then there 
stood up in the Sanhedrim a certain Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor 
of the law, honourable among all the people, and commanded to put the 





men out for a little ; 35 And said to them, “Ye men of Israel, take 

heed to yourselves, with respect to these men, what ye intend to do. 
36 For before these days arose Theudas, saying that he was somebody ; 
to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who 
was slain ; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought 
to nothing. 37 After this man arose Judas the Galilean in the days of 
the enrolment, and drew away people after him : he also perished; and 
all, as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, 
Kef rain from these men, and let them alone : for if this counsel or this 
work be of men, it will be overthrown: 39 But if it is of God, ye will 

not be able to overthrow them, lest ye be found even to fight against 
God.” 40 And they were persuaded by him ; and when they had called 
the apostles, and scourged them, they commanded that they should not 
speak in the name of Jesus, and released them. 41 And they departed 
from the presence of the Sanhedrim, rejoicing that they were counted 
worthy to suffer shame for the name. 42 And daily in the temple, and 
from house to house, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus the 


Ver. 18. Avtmv after contained in E, is wanting in 

A, B, D, N, and is omitted by all the modern critics. Ver. 
23. ''E%co is considered as a spurious addition: it is omitted 
in all the best mss. 'Ettl is attested by A, B, D, N, and is 
preferred by Meyer, Lachmann, and Tischendorf to 7 rpo, 
found in E. Yer. 24. f/ 0 re lepevs kcll is omitted in A, B, D, K, 
and erased by Lachmann and Bornemann; but on account 
of the difficulty of understanding it, its omission may be 
accounted for, and hence it is retained by Tischendorf and 
Meyer: E has ot lepel 9 . Yer. 28. Ov is wanting in A, B, x, 
and several of the most important versions, and is rejected 
by Lachmann and Tischendorf: it is found in D, E. Yer. 
34. Tou? av0pa)7rov<;, A, B, x, is preferred by Tischendorf 
and Lachmann to rou? aTroaroXovs, I), E, H. Yer. 37. 
f Ikclvov , E, H, is wanting in A, B, N, and is erased by Lach¬ 
mann and Tischendorf; C and D have iroXvv. Yer. 39. 
Avtovs is attested by all the best MSS. and versions, whilst 
avro is weakly attested. Yer. 41. Tov ovopLaros without 
avrov is by all the best critics regarded as the correct 




Yer. 17. O dp^iepevs. Here in all probability Annas is 
meant, in accordance with ch. iv. 6, although Caianhas was 
nominally the high priest. Kal Travres ol crvv avrco—and 
all who were with him ; i.e ., not who were members of the 
Sanhedrim along with him, but who were united with him / 
in this hostile attack upon the Christians. These belonged V 
to the Sadducean faction. This sect, as Josephus informs 
us, numbered among its members the most influential among 
the Jews. It is not indeed precisely said that Annas him- v 
self was a Sadducee; and accordingly some suppose that he 
merely united on this occasion with the Sadducees in a 
common object to oppose Christianity, as formerly Herod 
and Pilate united against Christ. But certainly the most 
natural meaning is, that he himself belonged to this sect; 
and Josephus informs us that one of his sons was a Sad¬ 
ducee. “ The younger Ananus,” he observes, “ who took 
the high-priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very 
insolent: he was also of the sect of the Sadducees ” ( Ant. 
xx. 9. 1). The Sadducees would be the most ready to exert 
themselves in persecuting the apostles, as they were most 
exasperated against their doctrine, which was in direct 
opposition to the opinions they maintained. 

Yer. 18. Ev rrjpgaei hypoala—in the public prison. The 
Sadducean faction of the Sanhedrim made another attempt 
to crush Christianity. They arrested the apostles—that is, 
Peter, and others of them, as leaders of the Christians—and 
put them in the public prison. 

Yer. 19. ’'AyyeXo? Se Kvplou , etc. —But an angel of the 
Lord by night opened the doors of the prison. These words 
do not admit of any rationalistic explanations : as that a d 
peal of thunder or an earthquake opened the doors, or that 
some secret friend—perhaps the jailor himself, or a zealous 
Christian—brought them out of prison (Thiess, Eichhorn, 
Heinrichs). Neander and Meyer, on the other hand, sup- y/ 
pose here a mythical embellishment. “ The fact of a re¬ 
lease,” observes Neander, “by a special divine guidance to 



, us unknown, became involuntarily transferred into the ap¬ 
pearance of an angel of the Lord.” 1 Baur and Zeller con¬ 
clude from the circumstance of the angelic interference, 
J that the whole occurrence is unhistorical. All these are 
attempts to get rid of the miraculous in the narrative. The 
^ deliverance of the apostles at this time was similar to the 
deliverance of Peter on a subsequent occasion. Nor was it, 
as Baur objects, useless, as the apostles were immediately 
afterwards arrested; because it evidently filled their enemies 
^ with perplexity, and themselves with boldness and confidence 
in Christ. 

Ver. 20. Tldvra ra prjpLara rfi? fan}? t avTrjs — all the words 
of this life. This expression is singular; as throughout 
j Scripture u this life ” is opposed to u the life to come ” (1 
Cor. xv. 19), whereas here no such opposition can be under¬ 
stood. Accordingly it is generally thought that the figure 
of speech called by grammarians a hypallage, is here em¬ 
ployed ; and that the words are used for prjpiara ravra tt)? 
fan}? —these words of life (Winer, Bengel, Kuincel). Others 
put stress upon them, as being spoken by an angel, a being 
from heaven : the life which he himself enjoyed (Olshausen). 
Others as if they were spoken in opposition to the Saddu- 
of this life which the Sadducees deny (Lightfoot). 




/ But the most correct meaning is, the words of this life which 
the apostles taught—the eternal life which the Messiah came 
to reveal (Meyer, Lechler). 

Ver. 21. Xwe/caXecrav to Xwe&piov — summoned the San¬ 
hedrim. The Sanhedrim was the supreme council of the 
Jewish nation, and especially legislated upon their religious 
matters. Although the Romans had deprived it of the power 
of life and death, still they recognised its authority; and 
among the Jews its decisions were held sacred, and beyond 
appeal. (See a former note on the Jewish Sanhedrim.) 

Ka\ iraaav rrjv <yepovcrlav twv vlwv ’IaparjX — and all the 
eldership of the children of Israel. Tepovala signifies a 
council of elders , a senate , the eldership. The word only 
occurs here in the New Testament. Some suppose that, in 
1 Neander’s Planting , vol. ii. p. 71, Bohn’s edition. 



consequence of the importance of the occasion, not only the 
elders who were members of the Sanhedrim, but the whole 
college of elders, were summoned to assist in deliberation 
(Stier, Meyer). But the existence of such a college of 
elders is doubtful. It is best to understand the expression 
as pleonastic : u the Sanhedrim, that is, the whole eldership 
of the children of Israel.” Typovala rcov ’Iovbalwv is the 
phrase employed in the Apocrypha to denote the Jewish 
council, and which is supposed to be identical with the 
Sanhedrim 1 (2 Macc. i. 10, iv. 44). 

Yer. 23. ’Ev Traar, aafyaXela: not, as Luther renders it, 
mit allem Fleiss ; or the Yulgate, cum omni diligentid; but, 
in all security. 

Yer. 24. f/ 0 lepev 9 — the priest. (See critical note.) The 
priest by way of eminence, or the already designated priest; 
that is, the high priest, namely Annas. The word does not 
in itself imply the high priest; but this meaning is derived 
from the context. (See 1 Macc. xv. 1; Heb. v. 5, 6.) O 
(TTpa'ryybs rov lepov — the captain of the temple. The captain 
of the temple was, as we have formerly remarked, the Jewish 
priest in command of the temple guard. 01 dp^iepeis — the 
chief priests. These are generally supposed to have been the 
former high priests, and the heads of the twenty-four priestly 
courses. Perhaps they are the same who are called in ch. 
iv. 6, oaoL ire yivovs dp^Lepan/cov. At this period the San¬ 
hedrim appears to have been an aristocracy. It was, how¬ 
ever, divided into two factions : the Sadducees, who were 
probably under the leadership of Annas; and the Pharisees, 
who appear to have been led by Gamaliel. Aiyiropovv rrepl 
avTwu — they were in perplexity concerning them. Avrwv, not 
neuter, concerning these things; but masculine, concerning 
them ,—namely, the apostles. The extraordinary deliverance 
out of prison, even although they might have been ignorant 
of the angelic interference, filled them with consternation. 
The Sanhedrim was thus, instead of being prepared to adopt 
strong measures, thrown into a state of helpless perplexity. 
As St. Chrysostom observes : “ Truly this makes good that 
1 So also 7] yspovtn'oc, rov eQuovg, 1 Macc. xii. 6. 



proverb, ( Evil do, evil fare,’ as we may see in this case. 
Here were these men in bonds, set at the bar of judgment, 
and the men that sit in judgment upon them were in distress 
and helpless perplexity. For as he who strikes a blow upon 
adamant gets the shock of the blow himself, so it was with 
these men.” 1 

Ver. 26. ’E<f)o/3ovTo yap t ov \aov — for they feared the 
people. The multitude were at this time so strongly in 
favour of the apostles, that they showed symptoms of stoning 
the captain of the temple and his officers; which, however, 
w r as without doubt prevented by the apostles voluntarily sur¬ 
rendering themselves. This was a surprising change which 
had come over the people, considering the eagerness with 
which they had demanded the crucifixion of Christ. Pro¬ 
bably the numerous blessings which the apostles had con¬ 
ferred by the healing of the sick, their disinterested love 
toward each other as displayed in the community of goods, 
as well as their recent deliverance out of prison, had com¬ 
bined to impress the multitude in their favour. The Phari¬ 
sees also, the popular faction, were for the present neutral. 
The lapse of a few months, however, gave another illustration 
of the proverbial fickleness of popular favour. The dis¬ 
appointment of popular expectations converted in the case of 
the apostles, as in the case of their Master, popular favour 
into popular animosity. 

Ver. 28. TleTfKppdotcaTe rrjv 'lepovaaXpy . . . tovtov — Ye 
have filed Jerusalem with your doctrine , and intend to bring 
upon us the blood of this man. The meaning of this charge 
may be: You would lay the responsibility of his death upon 
us, as if he were an innocent person, and we were his 
murderers. Or perhaps rather the apostles are here charged 
with exciting the multitude against the Sanhedrim : You 
would incense the populace against us, as if he w’ere an 
innocent person whom we had murdered. So Meyer: u Ye 
would cause the blood of this man to be avenged on us by an 
insurrection of the people.” 2 If the first meaning be the 

1 Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Acts , Horn. xiii. 

2 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p* 123. 



sense of the passage, then the accusation was true; for the 
apostles directly charged the Sanhedrim with being the 
murderers of their Messiah. But if the second meaning 
be correct, then nothing could be more false; for although 
the apostles refused to obey the command of their rulers 
to preach no more in the name of Jesus, yet they passively 
submitted to whatever punishment was inflicted upon them 
on account of their disobedience. 

Ver. 29. ’ Airo/cpLOeU Se Tlerpo ?, etc.— Then Peter and the 
apostles answered. Peter here again speaks in the name of 
the apostles. He has recourse to his former reply, that God 
ought to be obeyed rather than man (ch. iv. 19) ; only he 
states it with greater confidence at the commencement of his 
answer, and as a maxim of universal application. 

Ver. 30. Peter here applies the maxim to the particular 
case. O 060? twv rrarepcov rjgwv—the God of our fathers , 
and therefore to whom obedience must be universal and unre¬ 
served (comp. ch. iii. 13). v Hyeipev ’Irjaovv—raised up Jesus. 
Some refer this to the resurrection from the dead, as the sen¬ 
tence which succeeds contains a contrast to it, and the exal¬ 
tation of Jesus afterwards follows (Erasmus, Meyer). But 
then e/c ve/cpcov would have to be supplied; besides, the idea 
of the resurrection is involved in that of the exaltation, and 
the sentences seem to form a sequence in point of time— 
raised up, slain, exalted. Hence, then, the phrase signifies 
raised up, as the Sent of God (Calvin, Bengel, De Wette, 
Lechler). See note to ch. iii. 26. KpepLaaavTes eVl %v\ov 
—having hanged Him on a tree. The cross is here designedly 
so called ; because, according to the Jewish law, being hanged 
on a tree was esteemed an accursed death (Gal. iii. 13). The 
boldness of Peter is here very remarkable, when contrasted 
with his former timidity in the house of Caiaphas : there he 
denied his Master with oaths and curses ; but here he accuses 
the chief priests and elders with being the murderers of their 

Ver. 31. 'Apypfbv /cal era nr/pa — a Prince and a Saviour. 
See note to Acts iii. 15. There is no necessity, as Kuinoel 
supposes, to change the meaning of dpygryos. The leading 



idea is, that Christ is the founder or beginner of salvation. 

It is not, however, to be translated d/o%^7o? tt)? acorrjpla ^— 
the author of salvation (Heinrichs). As a Prince, Christ 
bestows repentance to Israel; and as a Saviour, He gives 
forgiveness of sins. Tfj Setjia avrov —not to His right hand 
(Hackett, Wordsworth), but by His right hand. See note to 
eh. ii. 33. Aovvau peravoiav ra> 'IcrpagX—to give repentance 
to Israel. This does not mean to give place or room for 
repentance—to open up a way of access to God ; so that 
through means of Christ’s death the forgiveness of sins might 
be conferred on all who truly repent. But it means that 
repentance itself is the gift of God, in the same sense as v 
forgiveness is. 

Ver. 32. Avrov papropes —either witnesses of Him , or 
better, His witnesses. Tcov pyparcov rovrcov —literally, of 
these sayings , namely the death and exaltation of Christ; 
consequently to be translated, of these things. The apostles 
were the eye-witnesses of them ; to witness was their peculiar 
province. Kal to Hvevpa be to ayiov—and so is also the 
Holy Ghost. Two classes of witnesses are mentioned as dis¬ 
tinct from each other, the apostles and the Holy Ghost. By 
the witness of the Holy Ghost is meant, not so much His 
ruling in the apostles, or His being conferred on those who 
believe, because such a testimony is borne rather to believers 
than to unbelievers; but the miracles which the apostles per¬ 
formed through the power of the Holy Ghost, and which 
miracles were the divine credentials of their mission. 

Ver. 33. Aicrzpiovro—they were enraged; literally, they 
were sawn through , or asunder; hence dissecabantur (Yul- v 
gate). A figurative expression for being greatly enraged, 
exasperated. Compare hieirpiovro rat? Kaphlais avrbov (ch. 
vii. 54). ’ E(3ov\evovro — they took counsel: that is, they pro¬ 

posed to pass sentence of death upon them; which sentence, 
however, could be only carried into effect by the permission 
of the Roman government. 

Yer. 34. Gamaliel is described by Luke as a member of 
the Sanhedrim, a Pharisee, a doctor of the law, and one who 
was had in reputation among all the people. We are also 



elsewhere informed that he was the preceptor of Paul (Acts 
xxii. 3). There are two celebrated men of this name known 
in Jewish history. The first of them, or Gamaliel the elder, 
flourished at this period, and is almost universally acknow¬ 
ledged to be the person here mentioned. He was the son of 
the Rabbi Simeon, whom some, on doubtful grounds, sup¬ 
pose to be the same who took the infant Jesus in his arms ; l 
and the grandson of the celebrated Hillel, the founder of one 
of the rabbinical schools. The Jewish writers concur with 
the sacred historian in testifying to the estimation in which 
this remarkable man was held, not only by the learned, but 
by the common people. He was called the u Beauty of the 
law and it is a saying in the Talmud, that “ since Rabban 
Gamaliel died, the glory of the law hath ceased.” He 
w^as not, however, as some suppose, the president of the 
Sanhedrim. Luke merely describes him as u one in the 
Sanhedrim.” Although a Pharisee, he w r as, we are in¬ 
formed, liberal in his views, and addicted to the study of 
Greek philosophy. He died eighteen years before the de¬ 
struction of Jerusalem, and retained his popularity to the 
last. He was held in such estimation among the Jew r s, that 
seventy pounds weight of perfumes w r ere burned at his 
funeral. 2 

According to ecclesiastical traditions, Gamaliel became a 
Christian, and was baptized, along with his son Abib and 
Nicodemus, by Peter and John (Photius, Cod. 171). The 
Clementine Recogtiitions assert that he was at this time a 
Christian, and by the advice of the apostles remained in the 
Sanhedrim to act as a spy upon its proceedings. Peter, in 
this work, is represented as saying : “ Which when Gama¬ 
liel saw, who was a person of influence among the people, 

1 The only reason advanced is, that these two Simeons probably lived 
at the same time. 

2 Josephus mentions Jesus the son of Gamaliel as high priest shortly 
before the Jewish war {Ant. xx. 10. 7) ; and Simeon, another son of 
Gamaliel, who took an active part in opposition to the faction of the 
Zealots {Bell. Jud. iv. 3. 9). The latter is also mentioned by Jewish 
writers, and is said to have perished in the siege of Jerusalem (Light- 



but secretly our brother in the faith, and with our privity 
among them” ( Recognit . Clem. i. 65). We are also informed 
that, four centuries afterwards, his body was miraculously 
discovered with that of the martyr Stephen. All these are 
idle traditions, without any authority. There is nothing in 
the counsel of Gamaliel to lead us to suspect that he was a 
Christian : his words are merely the language of a tolerant 
and sagacious man. The Jewish accounts, that he died a 
Pharisee, are without doubt correct. 

The moderation and prudence of Gamaliel’s disposition 
may have inclined him to favour the Christians; but per¬ 
haps also his pharisaical principles induced him. He seems 
to have been the leader of the party of the Pharisees in the 
council; and at this time the Sadducees were the chief 
opponents of the apostles. The preaching of the resurrec¬ 
tion, which was the great cause of offence to the Sadducees, 
would be a recommendation to the Pharisees. And when 
we consider the hostile feelings which were between these 
two sects, we are not to wonder that at this time the Chris¬ 
tians should be to some extent favoured by the Pharisees. 
Afterwards, however, when Christianity, in the person of 
Stephen, manifested its anti-pharisaical principles, the for¬ 
bearance of that sect no longer continued; and we find Saul 
of Tarsus, a Pharisee and a disciple of Gamaliel, among the 
bitterest persecutors of the Christians. There is extant u a 
prayer against heretics,” aimed against the Christians, said 
to have been either composed or sanctioned by Gamaliel; 
which, if genuine, is however not inconsistent with the 
character here given of Gamaliel, as the progress of Chris¬ 
tianity, and especially the evolution of its anti-pharisaical 
tendencies, would necessarily modify the views of such a 
strict Pharisee as Gamaliel, and cause him to regard believers 
as heretics. 

Ver. 35. Gamaliel here warns the Sanhedrim against 
adopting violent measures toward the apostles. He tells 

1 Lightfoot’s Horx Hebraicx , vol. iv. p. 53—Maimonides. This prayer 
is given in Horne’s Introduction to the Scriptures , 9th edition, vol. iii. 
pp. 273, 274. 



them to let the matter alone : and that it will either, if of 
human origin, come to nothing of itself without their inter¬ 
ference ; or, if of divine origin, that no opposition of theirs 
will prevail against it. But before stating this maxim, he 
first enforces the principle of non-interference by the examples 
of two political agitators, whose enterprises came to nothing, 
without any interference on the part of the Sanhedrim. 

Ver. 36. Hpo toutwv tcov rjyepwv—before these days; i.e. 
not long ago—in the memory of some of you. “ He does 
not recount ancient histories, although he might have done 
so, but more recent instances, which are most powerful to 
produce belief” (Chrysostom). ^Aveart <9eu8a? — arose 
Theudas. This example is quoted by Eusebius in his His¬ 
tory, who compares the Theudas of Luke with the Theudas 
of Josephus (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. ii. 11). Aeycov elvat nva 
eavrbv —saying that he icas somebody; that is, a person of 
consequence—perhaps a prophet, or the Messiah. 

We now come to the consideration of a great difficulty : an 
apparent discrepancy between this account of Theudas given 
us by Luke, and the account given us by Josephus. There 
is a Theudas mentioned by Josephus, whose history agrees 
with that here stated of Theudas by Luke, but with an entire 
and irreconcilable difference in point of time. The account 
given by Josephus is as follows: “Now it came to pass, 
while Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain magi¬ 
cian, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great company 
of people to take their effects with them, and follow him to 
the river Jordan; for he told them that he was a prophet, 
and that he would, by his own command, divide the river 
and afford them an easy passage over it: and many were 
deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit 
them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent 
a troop of horsemen against them, who, falling upon them 
unexpectedly, slew many of them, and took many of them 
alive. They also took Theudas alive, and cut off his head, 
and carried it to Jerusalem.” 1 This narrative agrees with 
the account given by Luke. Theudas gave himself out to 

1 Joseph. Ant. xx. 5. 1. 

YOL. I. 




be a person of consequence: the Theudas of Josephus 
called himself a prophet. Theudas was slain, and his fol¬ 
lowers dispersed; according to Josephus, Cuspius Fadus 
dispersed the rebels, whilst Theudas himself was slain, and 
his head brought to Jerusalem. The only difference in the 
accounts is, that the Theudas of Luke had only about four 
hundred followers; whereas the Theudas of Josephus per¬ 
suaded a great company of people (rov TfXelarov o^Xov) to 
follow him. But whilst there is this agreement in par¬ 
ticulars, there is an entire disagreement in point of time. 
The Theudas of Josephus lived in the reign of Claudius, 
when Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, about ten 
years after Gamaliel made his speech. It is also to be 
observed that, according to Gamaliel, Theudas appeared 
before Judas the Galilean, who arose immediately after the 
dethronement of Archelaus in the reign of Augustus: so 
that a period of about forty years intervened between the 
Theudas of Luke and the Theudas of Josephus. 

One class of critics (Wetstein, De Wette, Meyer) suppose 
an anachronism on the part of Luke. Luke, they assert, 
or the unknown author of the source of his information, in 
the account of the speech of Gamaliel, puts a proleptical 
mistake into his mouth. This, it is supposed, would occur 
the more easily, as the speech must have been handed down 
by tradition ; and it is more probable that Luke has erred, 
who was at a distance from the scene of the history, than 
Josephus, in whose lifetime the event occurred. But it is 
extremely improbable that Luke should have committed such 
a gross error as a mistake of forty years, especially as he was 
an intimate companion of Paul, a disciple of Gamaliel, who 
could not be unacquainted with the celebrated speech which 
his master made on this occasion ; not to urge the unim¬ 
peachable accuracy of Luke on other occasions. 

Another class of critics (Michaelis, Lightfoot, Jahn, Du 
Veil) have sought for a solution in an opposite direction, and 
suppose that Josephus is in error. Josephus, it is observed, 
frequently commits chronological mistakes; and as he was 
only nine years of age when Cuspius Fadus left the govern- 



ment of Judea, it is by no means improbable that he has 
confused names and periods. u Grant only,” observes Light- 
foot, “ that Josephus might slip in his chronology, and there 
is no difficulty in the matter. Nor do I see why we should 
give so much deference to Josephus in this matter, as to take 
so much pains in vindicating his care and skill in it. We 
must, forsooth, find out some other Theudas, or change the 
stops in the verses, or invent some other plaster for the 
sore, rather than Josephus should be charged with the least 
mistake; to whom yet, both in history and chronology, it is 
no unusual thing to trip or go out of the road of truth. I 
would therefore think that the Theudas in Josephus is the 
same mentioned by Gamaliel; only that the historian was 
mistaken in his account of time, and so defaced a true story 
by a false chronology.” 1 Bat this is a violent solution of the 
difficulty. Josephus is exact in the determination of time, 
and circumstantial in the details of the occurrence: so that 
a mistake on his part is improbable. 

Calvin supposes that there is no discrepancy at all; and 
that the speech of Gamaliel occurred after the revolt of 
Theudas, as recorded by Josephus: that whereas Luke 
seems to place the revolt of Judas of Galilee after the revolt 
of Theudas, he proposes to translate the words /xera tovtov , 
moreover or besides: and that Gamaliel, in bringing forward 
two examples, puts the one before the other, without respect 
of time. 2 But such a solution is entirely at variance with 
the chronology of Scripture. The speech of Gamaliel must 
have taken place in the reign of Tiberius, and therefore ten 
years before the revolt of the Theudas of Josephus, which 
occurred in the reign of Claudius. 

Various attempts have been made to identify the Theudas 
of Luke with other insurgents who lived shortly before 
Judas the Galilean, either toward the close of the remn of 
Herod the Great, or during the reign of his son Archelaus, 
and who are mentioned by Josephus. Thus Sonntag en¬ 
deavours to identify him with Simon, who at the death of 

1 Lightfoot’s Horse, Hebraicx et Talmudicx , vol. iv. p. 54. 

2 Calvin on Acts v. 35. 



Herod attempted to be king (Ant. xvii. 10. 6, Bell. Jnd. 
ii. 4. 2); because there is a similarity in the particulars of 
this revolt with those mentioned by Luke concerning the 
insurrection of Theudas. This opinion is adopted by no 
less an authority than Ewald. 1 Wieseler supposes him to be 
the same with Matthias the lawyer, who, along with Judas 
the son of Saripheus, broke in pieces the Roman eagle placed 
over the gate of the temple (Ant. xvii. 6. 2); but the only 
argument which he adduces is the similarity in the meaning 
of the names. 2 This opinion is also embraced by Lange. 
Archbishop Usher, Whiston, and others, suppose that Judas 
the son of Hezekias is meant, who after the death of Herod 
seized upon the palace of Sepphoris in Galilee (Ant. xvii. 
10. 5); as the names Theudas, Thaddeus, and Judas are 
all similar. And Zuschlag supposes that Theudion is meant, 
who was implicated in an attempt to poison Herod (Joseph. 
Ant. xvii. 4, 2). All these opinions are mere conjectures, 
supported by reasons which are by no means conclusive. As 
Winer remarks, 11 striving to know more than can be known, 
has produced only vague conjectures.” 

There is another solution which, although also a conjecture, 
is, we think, supported by better arguments than any of the 
above, and entitled to more consideration. It is supposed 
that there were two insurgents called Theudas: the one 
the Theudas of Luke, who lived in the reign of Augustus ; 
and the other the Theudas of Josephus, who lived in the 
reign of Claudius. This opinion is adopted by Beza, 
Grotius, Hammond, Lardner, Whitby, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, 
Bengel, Guericke, Winer, Ebrard, Olshausen, Wordsworth, 
and others. The following are the reasons by which this 
opinion is supported:—1. The name Theudas, as Lightfoot 
in his Horee Flebraicce shows, was not an uncommon name 
among the Jews; and therefore it is not improbable that, 
among so many insurgents, two should be named Theudas. 
2. Especially as, among the insurgents mentioned by 
Josephus, several of them possessed the same name: there 

1 Ewald’s Geschichte des Apostolischen Zeitalters , p. 532. 

2 Wieseler’s Synopsis , p. 103. 



are four named Simon, who followed each other within forty 
years; and three named Judas within ten years. 3. At 
the death of Herod the Great there were numerous insur¬ 
gents. Josephus mentions three of them by name; but he 
also observes: “At this time there were great disturbances 
in the country; and the opportunity that now offered itself 
induced a great many to set up for kings.” “Judea was at 
this time full of robberies; and as the several companies of 
the seditious lighted upon any one to lead them, he was 
created a king forthwith” ( Bell. Jud. ii. 4. 1, Ant. xvii. 10. 8). 
Hence it appears that there were many insurgents unnamed 
by Josephus, and one of these might have been the Theudas 
of Luke. To these reasons it is objected that it is impro¬ 
bable that two persons of the same name should make 
similar pretensions, and have a similar fate. But to this it 
is replied that these particulars are general, and suit several 
of the rebels mentioned by Josephus. 

Yer. 37. As there is a difference between the accounts of 
Luke and Josephus concerning Theudas, so there is an 
agreement in their accounts concerning Judas the Galilean. 
He was the most celebrated of the Jewish demagogues, and 
is frequently mentioned by Josephus (Ant. xviii. 1. 1-6, xx. 
5. 2 ; Bell. Jud. ii. 8. 1, ii. 17. 7). In one place he is said 
to be a native of Gamala ; but elsewhere he is called, as by 
Luke, Judas the Galilean. Josephus styles him the author 
of a fourth Jewish sect, although his followers did not neces¬ 
sarily differ in opinion from the Pharisees. His political 
doctrine was, that God was the only ruler of their nation, 
and that consequently it was sinful to pay tribute to Caesar. 
When Quirinus, the governor of Syria, caused an enrolment 
with a view to taxation, he exhorted the nation to assert 
their liberty, and prevailed with many to revolt. His fate 
is not mentioned by Josephus, but Luke here informs us 
that he perished. Although his followers were dispersed and 
himself slain, yet the faction was not destroyed ; for he is 
considered to have been the founder of the political faction of 
the Zealots. Two of his sons, James and Simon, were after¬ 
wards taken and crucified by Tiberius Alexander, the successor 



of Fadus {Ant. xx. 8. 2) ; and a third son, named Menahem, 
caused great disturbances shortly before the Jewish war, 
and was also put to death {Bell. Jud. ii. 17. 8). 

’Ev Tat? yyepais Tr)<s envoypa<$>r)<;—in the days of the enrol¬ 
ment. The enrolment here mentioned is that which took 
place when Quirinus was governor of Syria, and Coponius the 
procurator of Judea—after the dethronement of Archelaus, 
when Judea was converted into a Roman province. It was 
in consequence of this enrolment that Judas the Galilean 
revolted {Ant. xviii. 1. 1). This enrolment is different from 
that mentioned in Luke’s Gospel (Luke ii. 2), and occurred 
about seven years later. The enrolment mentioned in the 
Gospel was a census of the population ; the enrolment here 
alluded to was with a view to taxation, and to the conver¬ 
sion of Judea into a Roman province. 

Vers. 38, 39. These verses contain the counsel of Gamaliel. 
It is the principle of toleration. Abstain from punishing 
these men : if their work is of human origin, it will come 
to nothing of itself, without our interference ; but if of divine 
origin, no power of ours will overthrow it, but we will be 
found even to fight against God. Meyer supposes, from the 
different construction of the two clauses containing these 
alternatives—the former being in the subjunctive {iav y — 
if it he ), and the latter in the indicative (el eanv — if it is )— 
that in the opinion of Gamaliel the latter alternative, or the 
divine origin of Christianity, was the more probable. 1 But 
this seems to strain the words. Gamaliel states the alter¬ 
native, without giving any opinion—as if the matter was 
in dabio. 

This celebrated counsel of Gamaliel has been variously esti¬ 
mated. Some have judged it harshly, as if Gamaliel meant 
that success was the great criterion of truth (Schrader). But 
as applied to religious matters, it is in reality the great prin¬ 
ciple of toleration—that men are not to be punished for their 
religious opinions. It does not imply that other means might 
not be used, such as arguments, persuasions, etc., to convince 
the apostles ; but merely that the Sanhedrim should abstain 

1 Meyer’s AposteJcjeschichte , p. 130. 



from civil penalties. As Neander well observes: u On the 
one hand, Gamaliel had a clear perception of the fact that 
all fanatical movements are generally rendered more violent 
by opposition; and that what in itself is insignificant, is often 
raised into importance by forcible attempts to suppress it. 
On the other hand, the manner in which the apostles spoke 
and acted made some impression on a man not wholly pre¬ 
judiced ; while their strict observance of the law, and hostile 
attitude toward Sadduceeism, must have disposed him more 
strongly in their favour; and hence the thought might arise 
in his mind, that after all there was something divine in the 
cause they advocated.” 1 

The maxim upon which the counsel of Gamaliel is grounded 
has been applied to the propagation of Christianity, and has 
been esteemed an argument in favour of its divine origin. 
The counsel of the apostles has not been overthrown ; there¬ 
fore it is not a human contrivance, but of divine origin. 
The argument, however, is precarious. Mere success is no 
test of truth, otherwise Mohammedanism is of God. It is 
only when the success of any religion cannot be accounted 
for by human causes, that we are entitled to have recourse 
to divine interposition. 

Ver. 40. The Sanhedrim were persuaded by the argument 
of Gamaliel, to which result his influence contributed. Per¬ 
haps also the recent wonderful deliverance of the apostles 
out of prison shook their opinions ; and thus the hostility 
of the Sadducean faction was averted. They, however, 
scourged the apostles, in order that it might appear that it 
was not without cause that this prosecution was raised. 
They then dismissed them, with the repetition of the com¬ 
mand that they should preach no more in the name of 

Ver. 41. Xalpovre 9 —rejoicing . The apostles, instead of 
being in the least dismayed, departed from the Sanhedrim 
rejoicing. They rejoiced that they had an opportunity of 
expressing so emphatically their attachment to the cause of 
Christ. 'Trrep rov ovogaro?—for the name; i.e, for the 

1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 47. 



glorification of the name—the name whose confession and 
announcement was always the highest and the holiest solid- 
tude of the apostles : either the name Jesus, as last men¬ 
tioned, in which they were forbidden to speak; or rather 
the sacred name Christ, or Messiah, for the confession of 
which they suffered. ’ ArifiaaOrjvai, — to suffer shame. The 
allusion is to the scourging; a punishment regarded by the 
Romans as so shameful, that it was forbidden to be inflicted 
on a Roman citizen ; and among the Jews was also looked 
upon as disgraceful. It is called by Josephus Tiywpia 
aldyiGTT]— u the most shameful punishment.” 

Ver. 42. Udadv re rpikpav iv rw lepg )— and every day in 
the temple. The Sanhedrim could not in the meantime inter¬ 
pose its authority to check the preaching of the apostles ; 
and hence they preached for some time longer unmolested in 
the temple. Kar oltcov — -from house to house. A contrast 
to u in the temple.” It refers to the private assemblies of 
the Christians in various houses, in different parts of Jeru¬ 
salem. See note to ch. ii. 46. EvayyeXi^oyevoi top Xpiarov 
1 lycrovv — preaching Jesus the Christ; that is, they announced 
that Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified, was the Messiah. 



1 Now in those days, when the disciples became numerous, there arose 
a murmuring of the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows 
were overlooked in the daily ministration. 2 Then the twelve, having 
called the multitude of the disciples together, said, It is not agreeable 
that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Therefore, 
brethren, look ye out among you seven men of good report, full of the 
Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint over this business. 4 But 
we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministration of the word. 

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, 
a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Procliorus, 
and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte of 
Antioch ; 6 Whom they set before the apostles : and having prayed, ly 

they laid their hands upon them. 7 And the word of God increased ; 
and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly: and a 
great multitude of the priests became obedient to the faith. 


Ver. 3. 'A^lov after IIvev/iaTo^ is wanting in B, D, K, and 
is omitted by Griesbach, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. It 
is, however, contained in A, C, E, H. KaTacrTijorofiev, A, 
C, D, E, x, is to be preferred to KaraaT^acoiJbev. Ver. 7. 
'lepewv is decidedly to be preferred to the weakly attested 
reading Tou&uW, which, however, is found in the Sinaitic 
codex, and in the Syriac. 


Ver. 1. Ae — but. A contrast to the prosperous condition 
of the church mentioned at the close of the preceding para¬ 
graph. The enemies of the church—the Sadducean party— 
were for a time rendered inactive. External hostility had in 




a measure ceased; but (Be) a new evil arose within the church 
—an internal dissension. ’ Ev Tat? ? 7 /repat? tclvtclis — in those 
days. The time here adverted to is the period when the 
apostles were preaching unmolested in the temple. As the 
passage appears to be introductory to the history of Stephen, 
it was probably not long before his martyrdom ; consequently 
in the year 35 or 36. 1 HXyOvvovTcov tcov fiaOrjTwv — when the 
disciples became numerous. The more the church increased 
in numbers, the greater the diversity of its members, and the 
more liable did it become to internal dissensions. 

'EWTjVMTTcbv — the Hellenists. This word is derived from 
kWyvL^eLv, to hellenize , u to speak Greek/’ and translated in 
our version Grecians. The persons here called Hellenists are 
evidently those wdio were converted to Christianity from the 
Jewish religion ; for as yet the gospel was not preached to 
the Gentiles. The word in the New Testament for the 
Gentiles among the Greeks is "EWrjves, translated in our 
version Greeks. Some (Beza, Salmasius, Lardner, Pearson) 
suppose that by the Hellenists are meant, not Jews by birth, 
but proselytes from among the Gentiles. The chief argu¬ 
ment for this opinion is derived from Acts xi. 19, 20, where 
the Hellenists are distinguished from the Jews; but in that 
passage the reading 'EWr/vLcrTas is doubtful. Besides, it is 
extremely improbable that there should be at this time in the 
church of Jerusalem any large number of Jewish proselytes. 
The Hellenists, then, are here contrasted with the Hebrews 
as regards language. As the Hebrews are those Jews who 
spoke the Hebrew language, or rather that dialect of it then 
current, the Aramaic—the Palestinian Jews ; so the Hel¬ 
lenists are those Jews who, residing chiefly in foreign parts, 
had lost the use of their native Hebrew, and spoke the Greek 
language—the Hellenistic Jews. So Erasmus, Lightfoot, 
Grotius, Bengel, Kuincel, Winer, Wieseler, Olshausen, 
Meyer, He Wette, Stier, and Wordsworth. Thus the dis¬ 
tinction was not one of nationality, but of language. Both 
parties w r ere Jewish Christians. The one party 'were chiefly 

1 On the supposition that St. Paul’s conversion occurred about the 
year 37. 



Jews resident in Palestine, and tlie other party were the Jews 
of the dispersion, including also the proselytes from among 
the Greeks who had become Christians. 

The word ' EWyvLcmy occurs only two, or at the most 
three, times in Scripture, and that in the Acts of the Apostles. 
Here the Hellenists are distinguished from the Hebrews in 
respect to language. In Acts ix. 29 it is said that Paul, on 
his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, disputed 
with the Hellenists. Being himself a Jew of Tarsus, he 
expected to find more sympathy with them than with the 
more rigid Palestinian Jews. In Acts xi. 20 it is said that 
those who were scattered abroad came to Antioch and preached 
the gospel to the Jews only ; but that some of them addressed 
the Hellenists. Modern critics, however, are in favour of 
the reading (, EWr)va<;, the Greeks. It is probable, as Meyer 
observes, that as the acquaintance of the Greek Jews with 
foreign culture tended to lessen and overcome the Jewish 
narrowness of spirit, many of them would be the more 
inclined to embrace Christianity. 1 Still, as in Jerusalem 
they were few in comparison with the native Jews, they must 
at this time have formed the minority in the Christian church. 

"On TrapeOecopovvTO iv ry Ziatcovia, etc. — because their 
widows were overlooked in the daily ministration. Some 
(Olshausen, Lekebusch) suppose that the widows are put 
by synecdoche for all poor and needy persons. 2 But this is 
an unnecessary supposition. They are mentioned just be¬ 
cause it was the real or supposed neglect of them that was 
the occasion of the discontent. KaOyyepivy , formed from 
read' yyepav, is only found here in the New Testament, but 
occurs in Plutarch and the later Greek writers. The mini¬ 
stration here referred to is the distribution either of food or 
money among the poorer members of the church. 

We are not informed whether the complaint of the Hellen¬ 
istic Christians concerning; the neglect of their widows was 
well founded; but it would seem, from the change in the 
arrangements, and the institution of a separate body of men 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 133. 

2 Lekebusch’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 93. 


to manage the distribution of the charities, that there was 
some ground for it. We are not, however, to suppose that 
this neglect was intentional, arising from the self-conceit or 
positive ill-will of the Palestinian Christians (Meyer). We 
may conceive that for some time the apostles themselves had 
managed the distribution; but as the number of the disciples 
increased, they felt constrained to depute this business to 
others, in order that they might devote themselves more 
entirely to the ministry of the word: and thus, either from 
the neglect of the persons entrusted with this matter, or 
from the want of some regular plan, or from the increasing 
number of converts from among the poor, or perhaps from 
the natural jealousy between the two parties, this murmuring 
arose, and the complaint was made to the apostles by the 
Plellenistic Christians that their widows were neglected in 
the daily ministration (Rothe, Neander). 

We have here the account of the first dissension within 
the church. Hitherto the disciples had been of one heart 
and one mind, but now this unity was broken. The dispute 
was between the Palestinian and the Greek Jews. There 
was a natural jealousy between these two parties. The 
Palestinian Jews prided themselves upon their pure nation¬ 
ality, and looked upon the Greek Jews as their inferiors. 
They were also much more bigoted in their attachment to 
Jewish notions; whereas the Greek Jews, by their inter¬ 
course with foreigners, had attained to a certain laxity of 
opinion. The fact that both parties were Christians, although 
it would undoubtedly moderate, yet did not destroy, their 
prejudices. In this dissension may perhaps be discerned 
the germ of those future dissensions which arose when the 
Judaizing Christians disturbed the peace of the church, and 
which at length, in the age after the apostles, resulted in the 
separation of the Hebraistic (Ebionitish) and Greek elements 
(Baur, Meyer, De Wette). 

Ver. 2. To 7 r\rj8os rwv padijrwv—the multitude of the 
disciples. The complaint of the Hellenistic Christians being 
brought before the apostles, they summoned a general meet¬ 
ing of the disciples. Lightfoot supposes that by the multi- 



tude of the disciples is to be understood the original hundred 
and twenty (ch. i. 15)/ who alone, he thinks, are called 
disciples as distinguished from believers. Bat this opinion 
is not supported by the language of Luke: throughout his 
history the words a disciples ” and u believers ” are used as 
synonymous. Besides, we are informed that the proposal of 
the apostles was acceptable to the whole multitude (ttclvtos 
tov 7rX^ou?, ver. 5). Mosheim and Kuinoel think that 
the church of Jerusalem was divided into seven congrega¬ 
tions, that each of these congregations assembled in a 
separate place, and that each chose for itself a distributor 
of its funds ; but this is a mere arbitrary supposition. The 
objection that the disciples were now so numerous that they 
could not possibly assemble in one place, is without weight; 
inasmuch as we are not informed where this assembly took 
place, nor is it necessary to suppose that in a general meet¬ 
ing of the Christians all would be present: the meeting 
would be chiefly composed of those who were interested in 
the matter. 

Ov/c apearov icrrcv—it is not agreeable (non placet). It was 
not agreeable to the apostles to neglect their chief duty, 
the preaching of the word, in order to attend to a subordinate 
matter—the distribution of the charities of the church. 
This also implies that the distribution could not now be 
carried on as formerly; that there must be a separation 
between the ministration of the word and the ministration of 
the charities; that the apostles could no longer attend to both. 

AiaKoveiv Tpaire^aLs—to serve tables. Kuinoel supposes 
that money-tables are meant, and that the distribution was 
in the form of money ; but the verb ScaKovelv proves that the 
reference here is to the distribution of food ; and besides, if it 
were in the form of money, there would have been no use of a 
daily ministration. Perhaps there were several places in diffe¬ 
rent parts of the city where there were apartments for eating, 
and where the poor were fed free of expense (Olshausen). 
The Agapge would also be dispensed in the different places 
of meeting belonging to the church. The phrase also may 
1 Ligtitfoot’s Horse, Hebraic ee, vol. iv. p. 64. 



be taken in a general sense, and imply an attention to the 
bodily wants of the poor. The money to defray the expenses 
of this distribution was from the common fund, established 
in consequence of the community of goods. 

Ver. 3. , E7rtcr/jL6'ylra(j6ac ovv itj vgwv—Therefore look ye 
out among yourselves. —The election of the seven was not 
made by lot, as when Matthias was chosen to the apostleship ; 
nor by the apostles themselves, as when Paul and Barnabas 
ordained elders in every church (Acts xiv. 23) ; but by the 
church at large. The reason of this probably was, that as it 
was a matter concerning money, it was prudent tc allow the 
church to choose its own almoners. 

'Eirra—seven men. Various reasons have been assigned 
why seven should be the number selected. Some suppose 
that it was because this was the sacred number amonej the 
Jews (Meyer, De Wette) ; others that there were now seven 
thousand believers, and that one almoner was chosen for 
each thousand (Bengel) ; others that the church of Jeru¬ 
salem was divided into seven congregations (Mosheim, 
Ivuinoel) ; Mede supposes that it has reference to the fan¬ 
tastic notions of the Jews concerning the seven archangels ; 
and Lange supposes it to be either a contrast to the twelve, 
as a sign of official subordination, or to have reference to the 
seven days of the week. But all these are arbitrary suppo¬ 
sitions. As Lightfoot observes : u Why there should be just 
seven, let him that hath confidence enough pretend to assign 
a sufficient reason.” 

The qualifications of these seven are here stated. 1. They 
were to be gapTvpovgevoi — men of good report : that is, of 
unimpeachable honesty ; literally, attested. 2. They were to 
be 7r\gpeL<; Tlvevyaro 9 — full of the Spirit; not in a low sense, 
“ filled with a holy ardour,” but inspired by the Holy Spirit 
—thoroughly religious men. 3. They were to be irXypeLs 
(Tobias—full of ivisdom ; that is, full of prudence—a virtue 
indispensably necessary for the performance of their special 

Ver. 4. The apostles, in thus setting apart a special body 
of men to attend to the wants of the poor, declare that they 



would devote themselves to prayer and the ministration of 
the word. Alclkovlcl tov \6<yov is here contrasted with Sca- 
Kovelv Tpaire^ai^. The greater duty is to be preferred to the 
less important. 

5. Of the seven here mentioned, two only, Stephen and 
Philip, are elsewhere alluded to in Scripture ; one, Nicolas, 
is mentioned in ecclesiastical tradition ; the other four are 
totally unknown. 

Stephen is famous as the first martyr of Christianity. He 
is here said to be av&pa 'nrXtfpr) 7 rtcrre<y ?—a man full of faith; 
which is not to be understood merely in the sense of fidelity, 
trustworthiness (Kuinoel, Wetstein), because such a quality 
was essential in itself, and could not be considered peculiar 
to him ; but of faith, in the scriptural sense of the term, as 
the root of all Christian virtues. It was the superiority of 
his religious character which recommended him first of all to 
the choice of the church. Stephen is here placed at the head 
of the seven, as Peter is placed at the head of the twelve. 
u See how, even among the seven, one was pre-eminent, and 
won the first prize. For though the ordination was common 
to him and them, yet he drew upon himself greater grace” 

Philip is the same who afterwards preached the gospel in 
Samaria, and converted the Ethiopian eunuch. At a later 
period he is mentioned as resident in Caesarea, and is alluded 
to as etc tmv eirra — one of the seven (Acts xxi. 8). For the 
various traditions concerning him, see note to ch. viii. 40. 

Nicolas is described as a proselyte of Antioch ; that is, a 
Gentile by birth who had embraced the Jewish religion, and 
submitted to the rite of circumcision before he became a 
Christian. Salmasius supposes that the whole seven were 
proselytes : that whereas Nicolas is said to have been a pro¬ 
selyte of Antioch, it is implied that the other six were prose¬ 
lytes of Jerusalem. But this is a forced inference, arising 
from the opinion that the seven were all Hellenists, and that 
by this term is meant proselytes. It would rather appear 
that Nicolas was the only proselyte, and that the rest were 
either Palestinian or Hellenistic Jews. 



According to ecclesiastical tradition, Nicolas is said to 
have been the founder of the impure sect of the Nicolaitanes 
mentioned in Rev. ii. 6, 15 ; but the traditions on this sub¬ 
ject are various and contradictory. Irenseus asserts that he 
was the founder of this sect,—a statement which is also made 
by Tertullian, Epiphanius, and Jerome. Clement of Alex¬ 
andria, on the contrary, mentions an anecdote from which it 
would appear that Nicolas was only the innocent cause of 
this heresy, which arose from a gross perversion of his words ; 
and that he himself was noted for the purity of his conduct 
(Eus. Hist. Eccl. iii. 29). Indeed, it is doubted by many 
whether the term Nicolaitanes is not a mere appellative, being 
the Greek translation of the followers of Balaam (Kuinoel) ; 
so that no particular sect of heretics is alluded to, but those 
in general who turned the grace of God into lasciviousness. 
Neander supposes that a certain Nicolas (a name common 
among the Greeks) might have been the founder of the sect, 
but not he who is spoken of as one of the seven. 

It is to be observed that all the seven names are Greek. 
From this many have supposed that they all belonged to the 
Hellenistic faction of the church. Some (Mosheim, Michaelis, 
Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Olshausen) suppose that there were already 
almoners appointed for the Hebrevys, and that it was the 
wants of the Hellenists only that were here supplied ; but 
this arises from what we consider a false supposition—that 
there was an earlier body of office-bearers similar to those 
now appointed. Until the election of the seven, the apostle- 
ship is the only ecclesiastical office which is mentioned. 
Others (Rotlie, De Wette, Thiersch, Stier) think that, by 
the impartiality of the Hebrew part of the church, pure 
Hellenists were appointed, in order effectually to remove all 
cause of complaint. But, as Lange well observes, this impar¬ 
tiality would be converted into a partiality of the Hellenistic 
party; and besides, might afford ground for future com¬ 
plaints on the part of the Hebrew Christians. The mere 
fact of the names being Greek is in itself no reason to con¬ 
clude that the seven were all Hellenists, as it was customary 
among the Jews to have two names—the one Hebrew, and 



the other Greek : two of the apostles, Andrew and Philip, 
who were certainly Hebrews and not Hellenists, are yet 
known to us by Greek names. It is then most probable 
that the seven were partly Hebrews and partly Hellenists 
(Meyer, Bengel, Lechler, Lange). 

Ver. 6 . 'EireOy/cav clvtols ras — they laid their hands 

on them. The imposition of hands, as a solemn dedication 
to office, was an ancient custom. It was employed by Moses 
when he set apart Joshua as his successor (Num. xxvii. 18). 
In the early church it was used on various occasions. Here 
the seven were solemnly set apart by the imposition of the 
hands of the apostles for their ecclesiastical office. Believers 
also received by this means the gifts of the Holy Ghost 
(Acts viii. 17). The ministerial office was conferred by the 
laying on of the hands of the presbytery (1 Tim. v. 22) ; 
and in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the laying on of hands 
is mentioned as a special Christian institution (Heb. vi. 2). 

Ver. 7. Kal 6 X 070 ? rod Qeov yv^ave, etc. —and the word 
of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied 
in Jerusalem greatly. All served for the increase of the 
church. The dissension within it was healed ; its unity was 
restored; the spirit of love again influenced its members; 
and thus united in itself, the church made a^o-ressive attacks 
upon the world. As Neander observes : u By this appoint¬ 
ment of deacons, distinguished men of Hellenistic descent 
and education were brought into the public service of the 
church; and the Hellenists, by their freer mental culture, 
were in many respects better qualified rightly to understand 
and to publish the gospel as the foundation of a method of 
salvation independent of Judaism, and intended for all men 
equally without distinction .” 1 

IToXu? re 0 ^X 09 twv lepewv—and a great multitude of the 
priests became obedient to the faith. This statement has ap¬ 
peared to many so very improbable, that various attempts have 
been made to neutralize it. Some, contrary to the rules of 
criticism, adopt the feebly attested reading ’IovSalcov. Beza 
conjectures that the original reading is, 7roXu9 re 0 ^X 09 , /cal 
1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 35, Bohn’s edition. 

VOL. I. 



twv iepewv—and a great multitude , and certain of the priests ,— 
a reading; which rests on no evidence. Eisner and Kuinoel 
would translate the phrase as if it meant priests of the lower 
orders, sacerdotes ex plehe , as distinguished from the chief 
priests, dp^Lepeis -,—a meaning which the phrase cannot bear. 
The words must be taken in their literal sense, that a great 
many of the priests were converted to Christianity. We 
would certainly not have expected that numerous priests 
would have become Christians, considering the bitter resent¬ 
ment to which they would be exposed from their unbelieving 
brethren, and the loss of livelihood they would incur from 
being expelled from the priestly office. But, on the other 
hand, they were the better prepared for the reception of 
Christianity, by their superior acquaintance with the pro¬ 
phecies of the Old Testament. 

It is a matter of dispute whether we have in the election 
of the seven an account of the institution of the diaconate; 
or whether the office here adverted to was merely temporary, 
to suit a present emergency. Various reasons have been 
assigned to prove that the diaconate was then instituted:— 

1. The expressions employed, dianovia Kadygepcvg (ver. 1) 

and ZLcucoveiv rpaire^ai^ (ver. 3), are considered to imply 
that the office is that of deacon. 2. The primitive church 
generally supposed that we have here the account of the 
institution of the diaconate (Ignatius, Irenseus, Origen); and 
for this reason they restricted the number of deacons in their 
churches to seven. Eusebius informs us that in his time the 
Church of Rome, whilst it had forty-six presbyters, had only 
seven deacons ( Church History , vi. 43). 3. It is thought 

that the appointment of a mere temporary office would not 
be so important as to deserve such a lengthened statement. 
Equally strong reasons are, however, brought forward on the 
other side of the question :—1. It is observed that none of 
the seven is ever called by this name. Philip, when men¬ 
tioned, is called, not a deacon, but an evangelist (Acts xxi. 8). 

2. The office of deacon is never once expressly mentioned 
in the Acts of the Apostles, and is alluded to for the first 
time in the Epistle to the Philippians (Phil. i. 1),—an epistle 



written after the imprisonment of Paul at Rome. 3. There 
is only a remote resemblance between the duties and quali¬ 
fications of the seven, and the duties and qualifications of 
the deacons, as laid down by Paul in his First Epistle to 
Timothy. 4. When Paul and Barnabas brought the alms 
of the churches to Jerusalem, they entrusted them not to 
the deacons, but to the elders (Acts xi. 30). St. Chrysostom 
supposes that the seven were neither deacons nor presbyters, 
but appointed for a peculiar emergency: u What sort of 
rank these bore, and what sort of office they received, this is 
what we need to learn. Was it that of deacons? And yet 
this is not the case in the churches. But is it to the presby¬ 
ters that the management belongs ? And yet at present 
there was no bishop, but the apostles only. Whence I think 
it clearly and manifestly follows, that neither deacons nor 
presbyters is their designation ; but it was for this particular 
purpose that they were ordained.” 1 Perhaps the truth lies 
between these two opinions: that the office of the seven was 
not that of the diaconate, properly so called, but that this 
latter office grew out of it. When churches became nume¬ 
rous, men with functions somewdiat similar to those of the 
seven were appointed to watch over the temporal concerns of 
the church, and to administer its charities. This will account 
for the early church always regarding the election of the 
seven as the model on which the diaconate was formed. 

The meaning of the word Siarcovos is, a servant, an attend¬ 
ant. It frequently occurs in the New Testament; but only 
in four places is it used as an official designation (Phil. i. 1; 
1 Tim. iii. 8,12, iv. 6) : 2 in all the other places it signifies either 
a servant employed for temporal purposes, or a servant of God 
ministering to the spiritual wants of men. In the passage 
under consideration, the noun hiatcovia simply means service , 
ministration ; and the ministration of the word is there con¬ 
trasted with the ministration of tables—the spiritual service 
with the temporal. 

The seven were appointed to attend to the distribution of 

1 Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Acts , Horn. xiv. 

2 Perhaps also Rom. xvi. 1. 



the charities of the church. It was their dutv to take the 


oversight of the daily ministration, and to serve tables. 
We have no particular information as to the functions of 
the early deacons either from Scripture or the writings of 
the Fathers; but the oversight of the wants of the poor was 
part of their duties. It is a matter of dispute whether the 
function of preaching belonged to the office of the deacon. 
Certainly it is evident that, in the case of the seven, the 
ministry of the word was included; for the two who are 
elsewhere mentioned in Scripture, Stephen and Philip, both 
preached: they were hianovot rov Aoyou. Just as the 
apostles, who devoted themselves to the ministry of the word, 
did not divest themselves of all care for the poor; so the 
seven who were specially appointed to take care of the poor, 
were not thereby excluded from preaching the gospel. In¬ 
deed, it would almost appear that at this early period there 
was no regular ministry, the office of the eldership being not 
yet instituted; but that those preached who felt themselves 
influenced by the Holy Spirit: in short, that the ecclesiastical 
offices grew out of the wants of the church, just as a present 
emergency led to the election and official consecration of the 



8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs 
among the people. 9 But there arose certain of them from the syna¬ 
gogue, which is called that of the Libertines, and of the Cyrenians, 
and of the Alexandrians, and of them from Cilicia and Asia, disputing 
with Stephen. 10 And they were unable to resist the wisdom and the 
spirit with which he spoke. 11 Then they suborned men, who said, 
We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. 
12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes; 
and having come upon him, they seized him, and led him to the Sanhe¬ 
drim ; 18 And they set up false witnesses, who said, This man does not 

cease to speak words against the holy place and the law: 14 For we 

have heard him say that this Jesus, the Nazarene, will destroy this 
place, and change the customs which Moses delivered to us. 15 And 
all who sat in the Sanhedrim, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as 
it had been the face of an angel. 


Ver. 8. XaptTos is found in A, B, D, N, and is to be pre¬ 
ferred to 7 no-reo)?, the reading of the textus receptus. Ver. 
13. B\da(f)7]/xa after pi]para is wanting in the most impor¬ 
tant mss., A, B, C, D, N, and is rejected by most recent 


Ver. 8. Ae — but. No sooner was the internal dissension 
quieted, than a new trouble arose from without. 

%dpLTo<;—full of grace: not favour with the multitude 
(Heinrichs), of which there is no mention, but rather the 
reverse, in the context (ver. 12); but divine grace, favour 
with God. Kal hvvapews — and power; power to perform 




miracles, or Christian fortitude. 'EiroieL repara, etc .—did 
great wonders and signs among the people. This is the first 
time that we read of any of the disciples, except the apostles, 
performing miracles. 

Ver. 9. In this verse we are informed that Stephen entered 
‘into controversial disputes with the Hellenistic Jews in their 
synagogues. Hitherto the disciples had confined their public 
discourses to the temple and its neighbourhood; but now, 
after the example of their Master, they discourse in the 
synagogues. The disputes were carried on with the Helle¬ 
nistic Jews. Stephen was, in all probability, of Hellenistic 
descent and education, and was therefore brought into 
direct contact with them. From the accusation brought 
against him, it would appear that he had freer notions con¬ 
cerning the Jewish law than even Peter and the apostles 
at this time possessed. No such accusation of an attempt 
to abolish the Jewish law had been preferred against the 
apostles: so far as it appears, they had as yet made no direct 
attack upon Jewish legalism. The Hellenists, as a body, 
were also much less bigoted than the Palestinian Jews, and 
it is probable that the gospel had more success among them ; 
but we may v T ell imagine that wdiile the more liberal among 
them had passed over to the Christian church, the more 
fanatical and bigoted, such as Saul of Tarsus, remained 
obstinately attached to Judaism. 1 The subject of the dispute 
which Stephen carried on would doubtless be the proof from 
the prophecies of the Old Testament that Jesus was the 
Messiah; perhaps also he insisted on the necessity of faith 
and repentance as the only means of salvation, in opposition 
to the legalism of the Pharisees; and, as appears from 
his speech, he w r as very direct in his denunciations against 
all who obstinately persevered in unbelief. For these and 
similar reasons, he excited greater resentment among his 
hearers than had as yet been called forth against the 

AiftepTLvwv — Libertines. The conjectures wdiich have been 
made concerning the Libertines are numerous. 1. Some 
1 Baumgarten’s Apostolic History , vol. i. p. 130. 



have had recourse to critical conjecture. CEcumenius, Beza, 
Clericus, would read Al(3v(jtlvwv — Libyans; but this is con¬ 
trary to the authority of all MSS., versions, and Fathers, with 
the sole exception of the Armenian version. Schulthess sup¬ 
poses that the original text is Al(3vcov twv Kara Kvprjvrjv — 
an entirely unauthorized emendation. The reading of the 
text, AiPepTLvwv, is unquestionable. 2. Gerdes supposes that 
Jews belonging to a city or district called Libertum, in pro¬ 
consular Africa, are meant. Suidas, a Greek writer of the 
eleventh century, explains the Libertines as the name of a 
nation ; and in the Council of Carthage, in 411, there is 
mention of an Episcopus Libertinensis. But the existence 
of this place is problematical; and even if it did exist, the 
Jews would not have been so numerous as to form a svna- 
gogue in Jerusalem. 3. Lightfoot supposes that the Liber¬ 
tines were Jewish servants who had received their freedom 
from their Jewish masters; but against this supposition is 
the Latin name by which they are denominated, and the 
improbability that such persons should form themselves into 
a separate synagogue. 4. Grotius, Vitringa, and Selden 
understand by them, Roman freemen who had become prose¬ 
lytes to Judaism, and who were thus not Jews, but Gentiles 
by birth or descent. But if such were the case, we would 
have expected that the word proselytes would have been 
added ; and besides, it is wholly improbable that any great 
number of Roman proselytes to Judaism should reside in 
Jerusalem. 5. The most probable opinion, which is also the 
most common, is, that by the Libertines are meant Jews or 
their descendants who had been led captive as slaves to Rome, 
and had there received their liberty ; and who, in consequence 
of the decree of Tiberius, about the year 19, expelling them 
from Rome, had returned in great numbers to Jerusalem. 
Thus Chrysostom, Bengel, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Meyer, De 
Wette, Ewald, Lange, Lechler, Winer, Pearson, Lardner, 
Wordsworth, Alford. Multitudes of Jews were led captive 
by Pompey to Rome, and were afterwards liberated. Philo 
tells us that u the Roman Jews were for the most part 
persons who had been manumitted (oi 7 rXe/ou 5 cnrekevOepM- 



Oevres) ; for after having been brought as captives to Italy 
(by Pompey and others), they obtained their freedom from 
their masters, and were permitted to follow their religious 
customs unmolested” {Leg. ad Caiam , p. 1014). Now 
Tacitus in his Annals relates, that “ Tiberius took measures 
for suppressing the Egyptian and Jewish mysteries ; and 
that a decree of the Senate was passed, by which four 
thousand of the descendants of manumitted slaves ( libertini 
generis ) were sent to Sardinia, on the pretence of checking 
robbery there ; and the rest were ordered to depart from 
Italy, unless by a stated day they had renounced their pro¬ 
fane rites” ( Anna!. ii. 85). This statement is confirmed by 
Suetonius. u Tiberius,” he observes, “ distributed the Jewish 
youths, under the pretext of military service, among the 
provinces noted for an unhealthy climate; and dismissed 
from the city all the rest of that nation, as well as those who 
were proselytes to that religion, under the penalty of slavery 
for life unless they complied” ( Tiberias , 36). And so also 
Josephus asserts that u Tiberius ordered all the Jews to be 
banished out of Rome; at which time the consuls enlisted 
four thousand men of them, and sent them to Sardinia” {Ant. 
xviii. 3. 5). By combining these authorities, we learn that 
the Roman Jews were chiefly the descendants of emanci¬ 
pated slaves (Philo, Tacitus : Tacitus expressly calls them 
Libertirii ), and that they were banished from Rome about 
seventeen years before this by Tiberius (Tacitus, Suetonius, 
Josephus) : and thus we can account for a large number of 
them being at this time in Jerusalem. As has been well 
remarked, they were likely to be the chief opponents of 
Stephen, by whose preaching, as they supposed, the religion 
for which they had suffered at Rome was endangered in 
Jerusalem (Humphry). 

Kvpgvalwv — Cyrenians. The Cyrenians were the Jewish 
inhabitants of Cyrene, a large and important city in the 
African province of Cyrenaica. One-fourth of its inhabit¬ 
ants, as Josephus informs us, were Jews {Ant. xiv. 7. 2). 
They had been settled there by Ptolemy Lagus. There is 
frequent mention made of Cyrenian Jews. The second book 



of Maccabees is an abridgment of a larger work written by 
Jason of Cyrene (2 Macc. ii. 23). Simon the Cyrenian 
carried the cross of Christ (Luke xxiii. 2G). Jews from the 
parts of Libya about Cyrene were in Jerusalem on the day 
of Pentecost (Acts ii. 10). Men of Cyrene came to Antioch, 
and preached to the Greeks the Lord Jesus (Acts xi. 20). 
Lucius of Cyrene is mentioned among the distinguished 
prophets and teachers, when Barnabas and Paul were sent 
forth by the church on their missionary journeys (x4cts xiii. 1). 
And here we are informed that the Cyrenians possessed a 
synagogue of their own in Jerusalem. 

’AXetjavSpecov — Alexandrians. Alexandria, the capital of 
Egypt, and the seat of Hellenistic learning, was the second 
city of the empire. It contained a population of 300,000 
freemen, with at least an equal number of slaves. 1 A large 
part of the city was assigned to the Jews, and their numbers 
are estimated at 100,000, or one-third of the free population. 
According to Philo, two of the five parts into which the city 
was divided were called the Jewish quarters (Philo, in Flacc.). 
The Jews were first settled there as a colony by Alexander 
the Great, who gave them equal privileges of citizens with 
the Macedonians themselves (Joseph. Ant. xii. 1) ; and this 
colony was afterwards greatly increased by fresh emigrations 
from Judea in the reign of Ptolemy Lagus. Under the first 
Roman emperors they possessed peculiar privileges: they had 
a governor of their own, called o aXa^dpxv^ (Joseph. Ant. 
xiv. 7. 2), and a council to superintend their affairs according 
to their own laws. Josephus mentions Alexander, the brother 
of the distinguished Philo, as being in the reign of Claudius 
the alabarch of the Jews at Alexandria {Ant. xviii. 8. 1). 
Alexandria was the chief seat of the Hellenistic Jews, who 
were celebrated for their freedom of opinion and their culti¬ 
vation of Greek philosophy. Philo, who may be considered 
as their representative, was at this time living in Alexandria. 
The rabbinical writers, as Lightfoot shows, expressly inform 
us that the Alexandrian Jews had a synagogue of their own 
in Jerusalem. 

1 Gibbon, cli. x.; Merivale, ch. xxviii. 


KCkucta? — Cilicia. This country is bounded on the south 
by the Mediterranean, on the east by Syria, from which it is 
separated by Mons Amanus, on - the north by Lycaonia, and 
on the west by Pamphylia, from both of which provinces it 
is separated by the Antitaurian range. It was inhabited by 
numerous Jews, a colony of whom had been settled there 
by Antiochus the Great. Cilicia formerly belonged to the 
Syrian monarchs, but was at this period a Homan province, 
having been subdued by Pompey. It is particularly interest¬ 
ing to us as the native country of Paul; and nothing can be 
more probable, than that among the ablest of the disputants 
of Stephen in the synagogue of Cilicia, he would be found 
who afterwards became the greatest promoter of that faith 
which he now endeavoured to disprove and to destroy. 

'Acrcas — Asia. See note to ch. ii. 9. We must be careful 
not to confound the Asia of the Acts of the Apostles with 
that large tract of country afterwards called Asia Minor; a 
chronological mistake which many commentators have made. 1 

It is a matter of dispute how many synagogues are here 
mentioned. The language is indefinite. Some (Calvin, 
Beza, Bengel, Wieseler) suppose that only one synagogue is 
mentioned, to which all those Hellenistic Jews from these 
different cities and countries belonged. 2 This opinion arises 
from applying the words ri}? avva'ywyrjs to the whole 
list. But this is improbable, when we consider the great 
number of synagogues which there were at Jerusalem ; and 
especially that the Libertine, Cyrenian, Alexandrian, Cili- 
cian, and Asiatic Jews must have been so numerous, that 
one synagogue would not suffice for them. The words t r>? 
Xeyo/jbevr ]? annexed to rr}<t avva'yw'yrjs are most naturally to 
be restricted to the Libertines, inasmuch as this was not, like 
the others, a geographical term. Winer and Ewald, on 
grammatical grounds, suppose that two synagogues are men¬ 
tioned : the one the synagogue of the Libertine, Cyrenian, 
and Alexandrian Jews; and the other the synagogue of the 

1 The term Asia Minor is first found in Orosius, a writer of the fourth 

2 See Wieseler’s Chronologic, p. Go. 



Cilician and Asiatic Jews. But the restriction of rrjs \eyo- 
fjbevrjs to the Libertines is opposed to this opinion. We 
therefore suppose that five synagogues are mentioned. The 
Jewish writers inform us that there were 480 synagogues in 
Jerusalem; a number which need not be considered as an 
exaggeration, when we reflect on the vast population of the 
city, and the attention which the Jews as a nation then paid 
to the external duties of their religion. The number of 
synagogues being so great, it is highly probable that each of 
these five classes possessed a separate synagogue, especially 
when we consider the vast number of Jews who resided in 
Gyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and proconsular Asia. Meyer 
infers from the grammatical construction of the words, that 
the opponents of Stephen from these five synagogues were 
arranged into two groups : one, those belonging to the three 
synagogues of the Libertines, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians 
(Koman and African Jews) ; and the other those belonging 
to the two synagogues of Cilicia and Asia (Asiatic Jews). 1 

Ver.' 10. Kal ovk LG^vou'dvTLGTgvaL rf} go^lcl — and they 
were unable to resist the ivisdom. By the wisdom of Stephen 
is not to be understood exclusively his Jewish learning 
(Kuinoel, Heinrichs) ; but the Christian wisdom with which 
he was inspired, according to the promise which our Lord 
made to His disciples: u I will give you a mouth and 
wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to 
gainsay nor resist” (Luke xxi. 15). Kal tw Uveypan — 
and the Spirit; that is, not merely ardour of mind, but the 
Holy Spirit, with whom we are informed Stephen was filled 
(ver. 5). 

Ver. 11. 'T7re/3a\ov avhpas—they suborned men. The verb 
viroftaWco occurs only here in Scripture. Its literal meaning 
is, to throw under; hence to put one person in place of another , 
to substitute. Here it is to be translated to instigate , to put 
forward by collusion , to suborn ,—a meaning not unknown 
in Greek writings. The Hellenistic opponents of Stephen 
substituted other persons : they kept themselves in the back¬ 
ground, as if they were impartial disputants, and instigated 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 140. 



others to accuse him. As they could not overcome him by 
fair arguments, they had recourse to low and dishonest 
means. Their design was to stir up the people against 
Stephen, and to bring an accusation against him before the 
Sanhedrim, as a blasphemer of religion. 

'PrffjLara fiXacrtyrmcL — blasphemous ivords. The charge 
which these men made against Stephen was, that he was 
guilty of blasphemy; a capital crime, according to the Mosaic 
law (Deut. xiii. 6-10). He had spoken blasphemous words 
against Moses—that is, had attacked the Jewish religion ; 
and therefore he had blasphemed God, as the Jewish reli¬ 
gion was from Him. It was also for the offence of blas¬ 
phemy that the Sanhedrim pronounced sentence of death 
against Christ. 

Ver. 12. %vve/cLvr)crav re rbv Xaov — and they stirred up the 
people. This is the first time that we read of the hostility of 
the people toward the disciples. Hitherto believers were in 
favour with the people; the apostles enjoyed a certain degree 
of popularity : the pharisaic faction—the popular party—- 
were at least neutral, if not favourably inclined; the great 
opponents of the Christians were the Sadducees. But now 
a change took place: the people became hostile. And the 
reason of this seems to be, that Christianity now came in 
contact with the Pharisees ; Stephen, in particular, attacked 
Jewish legalism : the gospel displayed its anti-pharisaical 
side. The priests and scribes, who were chiefly Pharisees, 
were stirred up : the cry that the Mosaic religion itself was 
in danger, that this new sect was undermining the principles 
of Judaism, excited their hostility. And thus the popular 
party having become hostile, the people as a natural conse¬ 
quence became hostile also. “ Until the time of the election 
of Stephen,” as Lange observes, u the Pharisees were some¬ 
what favourably inclined toward the preaching of the Risen 
One : the popular voice was on the side of the Christians; and 
it was a very favourable symptom, that 6 a great company of 
the priests became obedient to the faith.’ Everything seemed 
to promise that all Israel would be converted. But entirely 
different was the state of matters after the appearance of 



Stephen. Pie, in his discourses, brought prominently for¬ 
ward the insufficiency of the Jewish law and the temple, and 
attacked the unbelief of the Jews, and their guilt in the 
death of their Messiah, more strongly than Peter had done. 
Peter indeed had upbraided the nation with this guilt, but he 
had still more prominently brought forward the counsel of 
God in the death of Jesus. Stephen, on the contrary, insists 
more on their guilt in connection with their entire history, 
because he felt himself constrained to pull them, as it were 
by violence, from their present position. Hence it was that 
he was accused by the Jewish fanatics as an enemy of the 
Old Testament theocracy; and from this time we see the 
pharisaical party united with the Sadducees in bitter hostility 
against the Christians.” 1 

Certainly this formed an important crisis for Christianity. 
It was the first decided step that was taken in the direction of 
a separation from Judaism. Hitherto the disciples wmuld 
be regarded as a sect of Jews entertaining the notion that 
Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified, was the true Messiah; 
but still attentive to the ceremonies of the law, worshipping 
in the temple at the stated hours of prayer, and frequenters 
of the synagogues. But now they are regarded as a hostile 
sect, the enemies of the Jewish religion. And in the provi¬ 
dence of God, it was exactly this turn of matters which 
paved the way for the disruption between the Christians and 
the Jews, and for the wider diffusion of Christianity. This 
led to the preaching of the gospel by Philip and the Helle¬ 
nistic Christians among the Samaritans, and even beyond 
the limits of the Holy Land : and this prepared Peter for 
the reception of the revelation that he should take the still 
more decided step of preaching Christ to the Gentiles, with¬ 
out insisting upon any intermediate conversion to Judaism. 
Henceforth Christianity was no longer the creed of a Jewish 
sect; but was to proceed, free and untrammelled, in its 
triumphant course throughout the world. 

Kal eTUCTTavTes (Jvvrjp'KaGav avrov—And having come upon 
him , they seized him , and led him to the Sanhedrim The 
1 Lange’s Das apostolisclie Zeitalter , vol. ii. p. 77. 



hostile Hellenistic Jews, having stirred up the people, now 
proceed to strike the blow. They arrested Stephen while he 
was engaged in his official occupations, and brought him to 
the Sanhedrim, which was the only Jewish court that could 
try capital offences. 

Yers. 13,14. In these verses we are informed of the nature 
of the accusation which was brought against Stephen before 
the Sanhedrim. They set up false witnesses against him, 
just as had been formerly done in the case of his Master. 
The general accusation was, that he ceased not to speak words 
against the holy place and the law ; that is, that he unceas¬ 
ingly attacked the temple and the law of Moses; that he 
was not only heretical in his opinions, but decidedly hostile. 
And in proof of this general accusation, they adduce a parti¬ 
cular saying of his : 11 This Jesus, the Nazarene, shall destroy 
this place, and change the customs which Moses delivered to 
us.” The words ’L/crou? 6 Na^copalos ouro? are not indeed 
to be considered as if they were intended to be the words of 
Stephen, but are spoken in a contemptuous manner by the 
false witnesses ; not that 6 Na^wpalo? is itself an expression 
of contempt, but is so when combined with onro? : this Jesus 
the Nazarene (compare Luke xv. 30). 

It is a matter of dispute in what sense these witnesses are 
called false; in other words, how far the accusation brought 
against Stephen was false, especially as the words reported 
contain the truth, inasmuch as the temple was actually de¬ 
stroyed, and the Jewish customs were abolished. Baur and 
Zeller maintain the essential truth of the charge, and accuse 
the historian of falsehood, inasmuch as he calls them false 
witnesses. 1 But the general charge, that Stephen attacked 
the Jewisli religion, as if it were not of divine origin, was cer¬ 
tainly false; and as to the particular words, we cannot sup¬ 
pose that he was so far advanced in Christian knowledge as 
to perceive that the Mosaic law was to be abolished: for this 
was a doctrine of which the apostles themselves at this time 
had no conception ; so that there must at least have been a 
perversion of his words. The witnesses, then, were false, 

1 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte, p. 146. 



because they perverted some strong expression of Stephen; 
just as the false witnesses perverted the words of our Lord, 
when He spoke of destroying the temple, and building it up 
in three days. Stephen, in all probability, had denounced 
the legalism of the Pharisees, and had threatened the un¬ 
believing Jews with the divine judgments on account of 
the heavy guilt they had incurred in the murder of their 
Messiah. But we do not learn, either from the defence of 
Stephen or from anything in the narrative, that he had 
attained to accurate notions concerning the abolition of the 
Jewish law, or even concerning the admission of the Gentiles 
without circumcision into the Christian church. 

There must, however, have been something peculiar in the 
preaching of Stephen to have excited such hostility, and to 
have given rise to such misrepresentations. The accusation 
of the false witnesses was probably more a perversion of the 
truth than a gross invention. As a Hellenist, Stephen would 
entertain freer notions than his Palestinian brethren ; and 
he appears to have insisted strongly upon the uselessness 
of mere formal observances in comparison with spiritual 
worship (vers. 48-50), and on the guilt and consequent 
danger of those who rejected the gospel (vers. 51-53). Pro¬ 
bably also he dwelt upon the predictions of the Lord con¬ 
cerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and upon the calamities 
which threatened the Jewish nation. In short, his teaching 
was anti-pharisaical in its nature and tendency; and this 
stirred up against him the fanaticism of the popular party. 
“He was,” as Neander observes, “the forerunner of the 
great Paul in his perception of Christian truth, and the 
testimony he bore to it (although far inferior to that apostle 
in the clearness of his view), as well as in his conflict for it 
with the carnal Jews who obstinately adhered to their ancient 
standpoint.” 1 

Ver. 15. f flcrel irpoacoirov ayyeXov—as the face of an angel. 
When Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrim, all who 
sat in the council fixed their eyes upon him, from curiosity 
to see the new Hellenistic preacher; and they saw such 
, 1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 50. 



majesty and exultation in his countenance, as if it had been 
the countenance of an angel. Some (Kuinoel, Neander, 
De Wette, Lange, Bloomfield) suppose that this was merely 
a natural appearance; and that the phrase is intended to 
represent the serenity, dignity, and calm composure that 
were impressed upon the countenance of the illustrious 
martyr,—a dignity which evidently for a time commanded 
the respect of his enemies, and secured for him a hearing. 
Others (Lechler, Baumgarten, Hackett, Alford) suppose 
that the appearance was supernatural: that a heavenly glory 
shone from his countenance, somewhat similar to that glory 
which appeared on the face of Moses, or to that of our 
Lord when He was transfigured. Upon the whole, we are 
inclined to think that the holy martyr had a glimpse of that 
heavenly world upon which he was about to enter, and that 
his face was lighted up with a transport of inward joy: that 
the Spirit so filled his soul, as to impress a heavenly glory 
upon his countenance, such as we read has been the case 
with several martyrs and dying Christians. At all events, 
the glory, whether natural or preternatural, did not prevent 
his enemies from wreaking upon him the full fury of their 


$vvaywyri signifies a gathering, a collecting, and hence an 
assembly, a congregation. The word is now restricted to 
denote the assemblies, or, as we would call them, the churches 
of the Jews. There is no mention of synagogues until the 
return of the Jews from Babylon. The first mention of 
them by Josephus is in the time of Antioehus Epiphanes 
(Bell. Jud. vii. 3. 3). It is, however, probable that they 
arose during the captivity; as the Jews, then at a distance 
from the temple, would be constrained to build meeting¬ 
houses, where they might keep up their peculiar worship, in 
the idolatrous countries where they were settled. After their 



return, they retained the custom in the Holy Land. The 
rabbis, indeed, carry back the origin of synagogues even to 
the patriarchal times; but they assign no reasons worthy 
of consideration for this opinion. The only passage in the 
Old Testament where synagogues seem to be mentioned, is 
Ps. lxxiv. 8 , where, according to our translation, we read 
that the enemies of the Jews u burned up all the synagogues 
of God in the land.” But according to Prideaux, syna¬ 
gogues are not here meant, but the proseuchce , or oratories; 
the word literally signifying a the assemblies of God,” 
that is, the holy places. In the Septuagint the passage is 
translated, /caraTra-uaco/iev ret? copras Kvpiov arvo rfjs 7 ^ 9 . 
Other eminent critics conclude that this psalm was not com¬ 
posed until after the exile. James also says, that “ from 
ancient times Moses is read in the synagogues every Sabbath- 
day” (Acts xv. 21) ; but to refer these times to the period of 
the return from the captivity, is a date sufficiently ancient. 

In the time of our Lord, synagogues existed in every 
considerable village in Palestine; and in the cities there 
were several. Thus, as already mentioned, it is stated that 
there were 480 synagogues in Jerusalem. The Jews of the 
dispersion also had their synagogues ; and so we are informed 
that Paul, on his missionary journeys, whenever he arrived 
at any city, first went to the synagogue, and there taught. 
When the Jews abroad were not sufficiently numerous to 
have a synagogue, they had their proseuchce (jrpocrev^ai), or 
places of prayer, which were enclosures, frequently without 
roofs, outside of the city, and generally in the neighbour¬ 
hood of a stream, for the sake of tliehr ceremonial ablutions 
(Acts xvi. 13). 

The service of the synagogue consisted in the repetition 
of set forms of prayer, and in reading lessons out of the law 
and the prophets. There is still in use an ancient Jewish 
liturgy of eighteen prayers, which many suppose was em¬ 
ployed in the time of our Saviour. The law was divided 
into fifty-two sections, so that the whole was read during 
the course of the year. To each section of the law, there 
was annexed a special portion from the prophets: so that 

YOL. I. P 



the lessons for each day were fixed, just as is the case with 
the service of the Church of England. After the reading 
of the law and the prophets, a discourse was delivered, gene¬ 
rally by one of the elders, or by a person of known character 
and learning, who was requested to address the congregation. 
Thus we find that our Lord and Paul were often asked to 
preach in the synagogues. 

Various officers were attached to the synagogue. These 
were not confined to the sacerdotal class, but might be 
chosen from the nation at large. At the head of them was 
the ruler or president of the synagogue (dp^icrwaycoyos;)^ who 
had the chief management of all its affairs, and saw that its 
assemblies were orderly conducted. There were the elders 
( 'TTpecrfivTepoL ), called also sometimes rulers (Acts xiii. 15), 
who appear to have formed a college under the presidency 
of the chief ruler, to aid him with their advice. There was 
also an officer called u the angel of the church” (legatus 
ecclesice ), whose duty it was to conduct the devotions of the 
assembly, being the reader of the prayers. And, lastly, 
there was the minister (v7rrjpeTr)<; y Luke iv. 20), who took 
charge of the sacred books, attended to the cleansing of the 
room, and opened and shut the doors. All these officers 
were solemnly set apart by the imposition of hands. It 
would also appear that formerly the schools were closely 
connected with the synagogues, so that the synagogues were 
not merely places set apart for public worship, but also for 
instruction, catechizing, and religious disputation ; and hence 
it is that we read that Stephen disputed in the various syna¬ 
gogues. Such also w ^0 the frequent practice of Paul. 

Synagogues also appear in the apostolic times to have 
possessed certain judicial functions. They were courts under 
the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim; and to them seem to have 
been committed the trial and punishment of minor offences. 
Especially they had the oversight of the religion of their 
members, or perhaps even of the Jewish residents in the 
district, for among the Palestinian Jews at least there was 
no such thing as religious toleration : heresy was regarded 
as a crime. Hence our Saviour warns His disciples that 



they would be regarded as apostates from the Jewish religion, 
and be scourged in the synagogues (Matt. x. 17, xxiii. 34) ; 
and Paul says, that when he persecuted the church, he beat 
in every synagogue those who believed on Christ (Acts xxii. 
19, xxvi. 11). The Romans do not seem to have interfered 
with the Jews in the administration of their laws, at least 
in Palestine; except that they protected the Jewish Roman 
citizens, who were forbidden to be scourged; and whilst they 
permitted the Jews to inflict minor punishments, they wisely 
deprived them of the power of life and death. 

The influence which the synagogue exercised upon the 
Jewish character was very great. It was this system which 
preserved them for ever from relapsing into idolatry. Reli¬ 
gion was openly taught and impressed upon them ; the law 
and the prophets were read every Sabbath-day : and thus 
they were led to look with aversion upon the religious systems 
of their heathen neighbours. A more intellectual form of 
religion came in the place of the ceremonial. A new class 
of men arose, who rivalled in influence the sacerdotal class. 
In the synagogue, the service of the priest and the Levite 
might be dispensed with: the elder and the scribe occupied 
their place. Through the synagogues also, it is probable that 
the Pharisees obtained and exercised their great influence 
among the people; the scribes and elders in general belonged 
to that party, whereas the worldly Sadducees were compara¬ 
tively indifferent to the outward forms of religion. It was 
the Pharisees who made long prayers standing in the syna¬ 
gogues, and thus obtained the praise of men.—It is an in¬ 
teresting question—the discussion of which, however, would 
occupy too much space—What influence the synagogue exer¬ 
cised upon Christianity ? How far the church, in its service 
and officers, resembles the Jewish synagogue? IIow much, 
if anything, was borrowed by the early Christians from the 
ecclesiastical polity of the Jews? 1 

1 For authorities on the subject of the synagogue, the reader is re¬ 
ferred to Prideaux’s Connection of the Old and New Testament, Conybeare 
and Howson’s St. Paid , Dr. Plumptre’s article in Smith’s Biblical Dic¬ 
tionary , and the article “Synagogen” in Winer’s biblisches Worterbuch. 



1 And the high priest said, Are then these things so ? 2 And he 
said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared 
to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt 
in Haran, 3 And said to him, Depart from thy land, and from thy 
kindred, and come hither into the land which I shall show thee. 4 Then, 
having gone out of the land of the Chaldeans, he dwelt in Haran; and 
thence, when his father was dead, He removed him into this land, in 
which ye now dwell. 5 And He gave him no inheritance in it, not even 
a foot-breadth : and He promised to give it to him for a possession, and 
to his seed after him, when he had no child. 6 And God spoke on this 
wise, That his seed should be sojourners in a strange land ; and that they 
should bring them into bondage, and oppress them for four hundred 
years. 7 And the nation to whom they shall be in bondage will I judge, 
saith God: and after these things they shall come forth, and worship 
me in this place. 8 And He gave him the covenant of circumcision: 
and so he begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac 
begat Jacob; and Jacob the twelve patriarchs. 9 And the patriarchs, 
moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: and God was with him, 
10 And delivered him from all his afflictions, and gave him favour and 
wisdom before Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over 
Egypt, and all his house. 11 But there came a famine over all the land 
of Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction : and our fathers found no food. 
12 But when Jacob heard that there was corn, he sent out our fathers 
first into Egypt. 13 And at the second time Joseph was recognised by 
his brethren ; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh. 
14 Then Joseph sent, and called his father Jacob and all his kindred, 
seventy-five souls. 15 And Jacob went down and died, he and our 
fathers. 16 And they were removed to Sychem, and laid in the sepul¬ 
chre that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Emmor, 
of Sychem. 17 But as the time of the promise drew near, which God 
had declared to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 
18 Until another king arose, who knew not Joseph : 19 The same 

dealt with subtlety toward our kindred, and oppressed our fathers, so 
that they cast out their infants, that they might not be preserved alive. 
20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, who was 



22 9 

nourished in his father’s house three months. 21 And when he was 
cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her 
own son. 22 And Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyp¬ 
tians, and was mighty in his words and works. 23 And when he was 
full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the 
children of Israel. 24 And seeing one suffer wrong, he defended him, 
and avenged him that was oppressed, by smiting the Egyptian : 25 For 
he supposed that his brethren would have understood how that God by 
his hand would give to them deliverance ; but they understood not. 
26 And the neit day he appeared to them as they strove, and urged 
them to peace, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye injure one 
another ? 27 But he who injured his neighbour thrust him away, 

saying, TV ho made thee a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Wilt thou kill 
me, as thou didst kill the Egyptian yesterday ? 29 Then fled Moses at 

this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat 
two sons. 30 And when forty years were fulfilled, there appeared to 
him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an angel in a flame of fire in a 
bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he 
drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came, 32 I am the God 
of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. Then 
Moses trembled, and durst not behold. 33 But the Lord said to him, 
Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is 
holy ground. 34 I have distinctly seen the ill-treatment of my people 
which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and I am come down 
to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt. 35 This 
Moses whom they denied, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? 
the same has God sent to be a ruler and a redeemer, with the hand 
of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man brought 
them out, after that he had wrought wonders and signs in the land of 
Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. 37 This 
is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, A prophet will God 
raise up to you of ypur brethren, like unto me. 38 This is he who was 
in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him 
in Mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the living words to 
give to us; 39 To whom our fathers were unwilling to be obedient, 

but thrust him from them, and in their heart turned back to Egypt, 
40 Saying to Aaron, Make us gods who will go before us : for as for this 
Moses, who brought ns out of the land of Egypt, we know not what has 
happened to him. 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered 
sacrifice to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their hands. 42 But 
God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is 
written in the book of the prophets, 0 ye house of Israel, have ye offered 
to me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the wilderness ? 43 And 
ye took up the tabernacle of Molech, and the star of the god Rephan, 
figures which ye made, to worship them : and I will remove you beyond 



Babylon. 44 The tabernacle of witness was with our fathers in the 
wilderness, as He who spoke to Moses commanded, to make it according 
to the pattern which he had seen: 45 Which also our fathers having 

received, brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom 
God drove out from the face of our fathers, until the days of David; 
46 Who found favour before God, and requested to find a dwelling for 
the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built Him a house. 48 Howbeit 
the Most High dwelleth not in what are made with hands; as says the 
prophet, 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what 
house will ye build me ? saitli the Lord; or what is the place of my 
rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things? 51 Ye stiff-necked 
and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: 
as your fathers did, so do ye. 52 Which of the prophets did not your 
fathers persecute ? and they slew those who foretold the coming of the 
Just One: whose betrayers and murderers ye have now become : 53 Who 
received the law as ordinances of angels, and did not keep it. 


Ver. 12. Eh AI^vtttov is found in A, B, C, E, x, and 
is decidedly to be preferred to ev found in 

D, H. Ver. 15. Eh AI^vittov is cancelled by Tischen¬ 
dorf, though it would seem without sufficient reason. Ver. 
16. 'O before covrjaaro^ found in H, is to be rejected; 
and the reading <w, found in A, B, C, D, E, N, to be pre¬ 
ferred. Ver. 17. Instead of w/xoaev, found in H, Tischen¬ 
dorf, Lachmann, and Meyer read Mpo\o>yricrev , after A, B, 
C, X. Ver. 21. The reading of the textus receptus, i/creOevra 
3e avTov, found in E, LI, is adopted by Tischendorf, Alford, 
and De Wette; whereas Lachmann reads exreOevTos Se 
avrov , certainly a better attested reading, being found in 
A, B, C, D, x. Ver. 22. A vtov after epyois is attested by 
A, B, C, D, E, N, and is inserted by all the recent critics. 
Ver. 26. Xuvr\\a<jev, the reading of the textus receptus , is 
found in A, E, and is preferred by Tischendorf, Meyer, and 
De Wette, as the more difficult reading, to avvyfKXacraev, 
although supported by B, C, D, and K. Ver. 30. Lach¬ 
mann, Tischendorf, and Alford read ayyeAo? without Kvptov , 
after A, B, C, N. $\o<yl irvpo<; of the textus receptus is found 
in B, D, H, N, and is adopted by Lachmann and Alford; 



wliereas Tischenclorf reads 7 rupl (j>\oyos, found in A, C, E. 
Ver. 31. TIpos aviov after Kvpiov , found in C, is omitted 
by Tischendorf and Lachmann, being wanting in A, B, N\ 
Yer. 32. Tischendorf and Lachmann read o @eo? ’Afipaap, 
real ’ Icraa/c , teal ’la/cco/S, after A, B, C, X. Yer. 35. Borne- 
mann, Lachmann, and Tischendorf read avv X 6L Ph a fter 
A, B, C, D, E, instead of ev % €L Ph found in H and X. Yer. 
37. The shorter reading dvaargcrei b @eo?, after A, B, D, X, 
is adopted by Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Alford, instead 
of the reading of the textus receptus , dvaargerei Kvpcos 6 deos 
vpwv, found in C, E, H. Avrov dnovaeade , found in C, E, 
is omitted by Tischendorf and Lachmann, being wanting in 
A, B, H, x. Yer. 43. 'Tpwv after deov is wanting in 
B and D, and is omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf: 
it is found in A, C, E, X. The reading 'Pe<fidv : found in 
C, E, is adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf as being the 
most probable. Yer. 48. Naois, found in H, is rejected by 
all recent editors, being wanting in A, B, C, D, E, K. Yer. 
52. The reading eyeveade, found in A, B, C, D, E, N, and 
adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Meyer, is decidedly 
to be preferred to 7 eyevrjade of the textus receptus , found 
in H. 


Stephen, being accused before the Sanhedrim of blas¬ 
phemy against the Mosaic religion, and against God, defends 
himself in the following speech. As to the nature of the 
speech—its relation to the charges brought against Stephen, 
and the objects which the protomartyr had in view—see 
remarks at the close of the exposition. 

Yer. 1. Elirev be 6 dpx^pevs—But the high priest said. 
The glorified countenance of Stephen has caused a pause of 
surprise and admiration, which the high priest interrupts by 
calling upon the accused for his defence. 

Yer. 2. "Avbpe 9 , dbeXtyol, Kat irarepes — Men, brethren , and 
fathers. Stephen, addressing the audience, calls them 
brethren; and addressing the members of the Sanhedrim, 



calls them fathers. 'O ©eo? rrjs —the God of glory. 

This is not to be considered as a Hebraism equivalent to 
@6o? eV§o£o? (Humphry); but it refers to the ho%a of the 
Jews—the glory of God, which, as a pillar of fire, guided 
them in the wilderness, and rested upon the mercy-seat 
in the tabernacle and in the temple—called by them the 
Shekinah. Hence Paul mentions y Soga as one of the 
peculiar privileges of the Jewish nation (Rom. ix. 4). ’Ev 
tj} Mecro7roTa/jLLa—in Mesopotamia. In the Old Testament, 
the place where Abraham first resided is called Ur of the 
Chaldees (Gen. xi. 28), and lay to the north of Mesopotamia, 
near to the sources of the Tigris. ’Ev Xappdv—in Haran. 
Haran, called here and in the Septuagint Charran, and by 
the Greeks and Romans Carrhse, was also situated in the 
district of Mesopotamia, but to the south of Ur, and on the 
side bordering on Palestine. It is noted in Roman history 
as the scene of the defeat of Crassus, b.c. 51 : u Miserando 
funere Crassus Assyrias Latio maculabit sanguine Carras ” 
(Lucan, i. 104) ; Carras ccede Crassi nohiles (Plin. v. 24 ; 
Strabo, xvi. 1. 23). In the wars of Julian it is mentioned as 
a Roman city, and in the days of the caliphs it was a place 
of some consequence. It is still known by its ancient name, 
and is inhabited by a few wandering Arabs. Niebuhr says 
that it is two days’ journey from Orfa. 

Ver. 3. Kal elrre 7 rpo? avrov—and said to him , Depart 
from thy land , and from thy kindred. The quotation is taken 
verbatim from the Septuagint of Gen. xii. 1, except that the 
words /cal e/c too ol/cov rov 7 rarpos aov y and from the house of 
thy father , are here omitted. There is here an apparent dis¬ 
crepancy between the statement of Stephen and the Mosaic 
narrative. According to Stephen, the call of Abraham took 
place in Ur of the Chaldees before he dwelt in Haran; 
whereas, according to Moses, the call occurred in Haran. 
Accordingly many critics (Grotius, He Wette, Meyer) think 
that Stephen has here committed a mistake, and followed an 
erroneous tradition of the Jews. JBut the discrepancy is 
only apparent. It would appear from the sacred narrative 
that Abraham was twice called: once in Ur of the Chaldees, 



and afterwards at Ilaran. His removal from Ur, we are 
expressly informed, was in consequence of a divine revela¬ 
tion : u I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the 
Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it” (Gen. xv. 7). 
And in the book of Nehemiah there is a reference to this 
early call: a Thou art the Lord, the God who didst choose 
Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chal¬ 
dees” (Neil. ix. 7). Josephus mentions this earlier call of 
Abraham in Chaldea, but he omits entirely the sojourn in 
Haran {Ant. i. 7. 1). To this solution of the difficulty, Meyer 
objects that the verbal quotation from Gen. xii. 1 proves 
that Stephen had in view no other call than that mentioned 
in this passage. But, on the one hand, it is not surprising 
either that the call should be repeated to Abraham in nearly 
the same words, or that Stephen should apply the well- 
known words found in Gen. xii. 1 to the earlier call. And, 
on the other hand, the words are not precisely the same; for 
here there is no mention of a departure from his father’s 
house, as there is when God called Abraham at Haran. 
When Abraham removed from Ur of the Chaldees, he did 
not depart from his father’s house, for Terah his father 
accompanied him; but when he removed from Haran, he 
left Terah (if he was then alive) and his brother Nahor. 

Ver. 4. Mera to airoOavelv rov jrarepa avrov —after his 
father was dead. Here there is another variation from the 
Mosaic narrative. In Gen. xi. 26 we read that Terah lived 
seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran ; and in 
Gen. xi. 32 we are informed that the days of Terah were 
two hundred and five years. Now Abraham was seventy-five 
when he removed from Haran (Gen. xii. 4) ; and therefore it 
would follow that Terah, so far from being dead, lived sixty 
years after the departure of Abraham (70-4-75 + 60 = 205). 
There was a tradition of the Jews, that Abraham, actuated 
by filial piety, remained in Haran until the death of his 
father. Philo, in his Life of Abraham, also mentions the 
death of Terah as occurring before the removal of Abra¬ 
ham {De migr. Ahrah. 32) ; and hence many suppose that 
Stephen here followed a rabbinical tradition, though erro- 



neous (Meyer, De Wette, Lechler, Alford). Bengel sup¬ 
poses, that while Terali lived in Haran, Abraham had his 
paternal home there, and only lived as a stranger in the land 
of Canaan ; but such a solution of the difficulty is forced 
and unnatural. Baumgarten asserts, that although Terali 
yet lived when Abraham went into Canaan, yet Stephen 
thought it necessary to mention his death, for the purpose of 
showing, that for the commencement of the new relation 
which God designed to form with the human race, Abraham 
was to be taken into consideration, not as associated, but as 
separate from Terah,—an explanation which is unsatisfactory 
and mystical. Many critics (Michaelis, Kuinoel, Liiger, 
Olshausen, Stier) suppose that Stephen here adopts the 
Jewish notion, that Abraham left Haran after the spiritual 
death of Terah, that is, after his apostasy into idolatry. 
According to this view, airodaveiv must signify spiritual 
death,—a sense which is not justified by the context, and 
which would never have been adopted had not this apparent 
discrepancy occurred. The Samaritan Pentateuch reads one 
hundred and forty-five years as the age of Terah,—a reading 
which has been adopted by Bochart and Whiston. If 
correct, it is a complete solution of the difficulty ; for then 
Terah would be dead before Abraham left Haran. The 
most probable explanation is, that Abraham was the youngest 
son of Terah, and was not born until Terah was a hundred 
and thirty years old (Lange, Lightfoot, Hackett, Biscoe, 
Wordsworth). It is indeed said that Terah was seventy 
years old when he begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; but by 
this may be only meant, that he was that age when his first 
child was born ; and Abraham may be mentioned first, not 
because he was the oldest, but because he was the most dis¬ 
tinguished. Lightfoot has shown that some Jewish writers 
assert that, although first mentioned, Abraham was the 
youngest of the brethren ; and they illustrate this from the 
order observed in numbering the sons of Noah, where Shern 
is first in the catalogue, though he was younger than Japliet. 
The great number of years (sixty) between the birth of the 
oldest and of the youngest son of Terah on this supposition 



is, it must be admitted, an objection to this solution of the 
difficulty; but, considering the ages of the patriarchs, it 
cannot be asserted to be insurmountable. 1 

Ver. 5. Kal ovk ehomev avrcy K\rjpovop,{av iv avrfj — and 
He gave him no inheritance in it. Here a third apparent 
contradiction to the Mosaic narrative occurs. According to 
Stephen, Abraham had no inheritance in Canaan, not even 
a foot-breadth ; whereas, according to the Mosaic narrative, 
he purchased the field and cave of Machpelah at Hebron 
(Gen. xxiii. 20). Various explanations have been given. 
Meyer supposes that the statement of Stephen refers only 
to the first period of Abraham’s residence in Canaan, before 
the institution of circumcision ; whereas that field was pur¬ 
chased toward the close of his life. Kuinoel and Olshausen 
think that ovk, here stands for ov7tcl>, not yet. Bengel and 
Lechler find the solution of the difficulty in this, that Abra¬ 
ham had to purchase the field, and did not receive it as a 
gift from God. But, after all, what is the use of all these 
attempts at reconciliation ? Surely a burying-place cannot 
be called an inheritance. Although the whole land of 
Canaan was given by promise to Abraham, and to his seed 
after him, yet he could only find in it a grave for himself 
and family. 

Vers. 6, 7. These verses are a quotation, with a few varia¬ 
tions, from the Septuagint of Gen. xv. 13, 14. The last words, 
Xarpevcrovcri got iv tco Toirop tovtw, are taken from Ex. iii. 12, 
where, however, tottw is substituted for opei. By the words 
“in this place,” are meant the land of Canaan; whereas, 
in the book of Exodus, “ in this mountain” refers to Sinai. 
The words are a permissible application of the language of 
the Mosaic narrative, by which the promise that the Israelites 
would worship God in Sinai is transferred to their worship 
in the Holy Land; and it is hypercriticism to affirm that 
here there is another mistake committed by Stephen. Such 
applications of the prophecies of the Old Testament are fre¬ 
quently made by the sacred writers. 

Errj rerpaKoata — four hundred years. This is the number 
1 See especially, on this difficulty, Biscoe on the Acts , pp. 545, 54G. 


in the passage of which these words are a quotation, accord¬ 
ing to the text both of the Hebrew and of the Septuagint 
1(Gen. xvi. 13). The exact number of years, as we elsewhere 
learn, was four hundred and thirty (Ex. xii. 40; see also 
Gal. iii. 17). A round sum is here given, without taking 
into account the broken number. But the question is, From 
what period are these years to be reckoned % Do they refer 
exclusively to the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, com¬ 
mencing at the removal of Jacob into that country ? Or do 
they commence from the call of Abraham, and include also 
the sojourn in Canaan ? Certainly, at first sight, the words 
in the Mosaic narrative would seem to intimate that this was 
the period of Egyptian bondage; but Paul understands it 
differently. He reckons four hundred and thirty years as 
extending from the call of Abraham to the giving of the law 
(Gal. iii. 17). And there are internal marks in the Mosaic 
narrative which show that this reckoning is correct; for the 
mother of Moses was the daughter of Levi (Ex. vi. 20), 
which would be impossible were the whole period of Egyptian 
bondage four hundred and thirty years. 1 The period of 
four hundred and thirty years appears to be divided into two 
equal parts, the one being the sojourn in Canaan, and the 
other being the sojourn in Egypt. The former period is 
thus reckoned: From the call of Abraham to the birth of 
Isaac, twenty-five years ; from the birth of Isaac to the birth 
of Jacob, sixty years ; from the birth of Jacob to his removal 
to Egypt, a hundred and thirty years (Gen. xlvii. 9) : 25 J- 60 
—p 130 = 215. And the latter period may be thus accounted 
for : From Jacob’s removal to Egypt to the death of Joseph, 
seventy-one years; from the death of Joseph to the birth 
of Moses, sixty-four years; from the birth of Moses to the 
exodus, eighty years : 71 -f 64 + 80 = 215. Josephus is 
not consistent with himself. In one place he says that the 
Israelites spent four hundred years under the afflictions in 
Egypt (Ant. ii. 9. 1), and in another place he states that the 
children of Israel left Egypt four hundred and thirty years 

1 See a valuable note by Alford on Gal. iii. 17 ; and also Wordsworth 
on the Acts , p. 67. 



after Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and 
fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt (Ant. 
ii. 15. 2). 

Ver. 8. AiaOrjfcriv TrepiToyrj ?— the covenant of circumcision. 
Circumcision was the sign or seal of the covenant which God 
made with Abraham, that He would give to him and to his 
seed the land of Canaan for a possession ; so that, fully 
expressed, the idea is : He gave to him circumcision, the seal 
of the covenant. Circumcision, however, is called in the 
Old Testament, as here, the covenant (Gen. xvii. 10, 11) ; 
the sign being called by the name of the thing signified. 

Ver. 9. Kal ol nrarpLap'^cu — and the patriarchs. The 
twelve sons of Jacob are here honoured by the name patri¬ 
archs, as being the heads of the twelve tribes or nrarptaL 
ZrjXcocrav re?, rov Jcocrrjcf) arreSovro — moved with envy , sold 
Joseph. Without doubt, Stephen, in mentioning the envious 
jealousy of the patriarchs toward Joseph, had in view the 
wicked disposition of the Jewish rulers toward Jesus. There 
is here, as well as in the mention of the rejection of Moses, 
an indirect attack upon his accusers: that they, in rejecting 
Jesus and persecuting His disciples, were just acting over 
again the conduct of their forefathers. 

Ver. 10. Kal eScorce v avrw xapiv — and gave him favour and 
wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh. By this we are not to under¬ 
stand favour in the sight of God, and wisdom in the sight of 
Pharaoh (Meyer). Both favour and wisdom have reference 
to the view of the king. Joseph, by displaying his wisdom 
as an interpreter of dreams, obtained favour with Pharaoh, 
so much so that he constituted him his vizier. Pharaoh 
appears to have been the common title of the Egyptian kings, 
as Ptolemy was in after ages, and as Caesar was the title of 
the Roman emperors. 

Vers. 11-13. Xoprao-yara — food ; literally fodder, a de¬ 
ficiency in which was the greatest want for a pastoral people 
like the Israelites. y Ovra cnrla — that there was corn. Where, 
is not said, but Egypt is supposed. Egypt was the great 
corn country of the ancient world ; it was the granary of the 
Roman empire. Eh Aljvtttov — into Egypt. These words 



are not connected with atria , as in our version, but with 
i^aireareCXe, as is evident from the preposition et?. (See 
critical note.) Tlpwrov — first, i.e. before going himself. 
To 7ew? ’Icoaycp — the kindred of Joseph teas made known to 
Pharaoh ; not that Pharaoh now learned for the first time 
the Hebrew origin of Joseph, but merely that he was in¬ 
formed of the arrival of his kindred in Egypt. 

Ver. 14. Wv^ats efi^o/iT]Kovrairevre — seventy-five souls. 
The readings of the Hebrew and the Septuagint here differ. 
According to the Hebrew text, the descendants of Jacob 
amounted only to seventy (Gen. xlvi. 27 ; Ex. i. 5 ; Deut. 
x. 22), and the same number is given by Josephus ( Ant . ii. 
7. 4); whereas according to the Septuagint (Gen. xlvi. 27 
and Ex. i. 5, but not in Deut. x. 22) the number is seventy- 
five. According to the Hebrew, the descendants of Jacob 
who came into Egypt were sixty-six; and Jacob himself, 
Joseph and his two sons, made up the seventy : whereas in 
the Septuagint, after giving the number sixty-six, it is added, 
u And the sons of Joseph born unto him in the land of Egypt 
were nine souls; so all the souls of the house of Jacob who 
came into Egypt were seventy-five” (Gen. xlvi. 26, 27). By 
the nine sons of Joseph are probably meant his two sons and 
their five children and grandchildren (Gen. xlvi. 20, accord¬ 
ing to the LXX.), and reckoning Jacob and Joseph them¬ 
selves to make up the number (Alford). Various attempts 
have been made to reconcile the statement of Stephen with 
the Hebrew account. It has been supposed that in the 
Hebrew those only are mentioned who w T ere descended from 
Jacob—his sons and grandsons ; whereas Stephen mentions 
those who came down with him into Egypt, including the 
wives of the patriarchs, and excluding Joseph and his two 
sons, who were already in Egypt. But such an explanation 
is unsatisfactory. Stephen, in giving the number at seventy- 
five, just follows the Septuagint, the translation which he, as 
a Hellenist, used; and according to it, the number is made 
up by adding the five descendants of Joseph. 1 

Vers. 15, 16. These verses contain the greatest apparent 
1 See Wordsworth on the Acts , p. 68. 



discrepancies which exist between the speech of Stephen and 
the Mosaic narrative. There are three variations : 1. Ac¬ 
cording to Stephen, it would appear that Jacob was buried 
in Shechem; whereas according to the Mosaic account he 
was buried with Abraham and Isaac at Hebron. 2. Accord¬ 
ing to Stephen, the twelve patriarchs were buried at Shechem; 
whereas according to the Mosaic narrative this was indeed 
true of Joseph, but there is no mention of the rest of the 
patriarchs. (This, however, can hardly be called a discre¬ 
pancy, as there is here no statement of Moses at variance 
with the words of Stephen.) 3. According to Stephen, it 
would seem that the field of Shechem was purchased by 
Abraham of the sons of Emmor, the father of Shechem; 
whereas according to the Mosaic account this purchase was 
made by Jacob (Gen. xxxiii. 19),—the purchase of Abraham 
being the cave of Machpelah at Hebron from Ephron the 
Hittite (Gen. xxiii. 20). 

With regard to the first and second variations, the diffi¬ 
culty consists in this, that Stephen appears to state that 
Jacob and the twelve patriarchs were buried in Shechem ; 
whereas according to the Mosaic narrative Jacob was buried 
at Hebron, and it is mentioned of Joseph only that his bones 
were buried in Shechem : “The bones of Joseph, which the 
children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in 
Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the 
sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem ” (Josh. xxiv. 32). 
There is no mention in the Old Testament of the burial- 
place of the other patriarchs ; and, according to Lightfoot, 
all Jewish writers are wholly silent with regard to their burial 
in Shechem. According to Josephus, their bodies were buried 
at Hebron {Ant. ii. 8. 2). Christian tradition, however, fixes 
on Shechem as their place of sepulture. Thus Jerome, who 
himself lived in the neighbourhood of that city, giving a de¬ 
scription of the travels of Paula through the Holy Land, 
says : “ She came to Shechem, and passing thence, she saw 
the sepulchres of the twelve patriarchs ” {Ep. 86). And it is 
not improbable, that with the bones of Joseph, the Israelites 
buried also the bones of the other patriarchs at Shechem 



This, however, does not solve the difficulty with regard to the 
burial of Jacob ; and on this point most commentators con¬ 
sider that Stephen was mistaken (De Wette, Meyer, Alford, 
Lange). But if we suppose that ol iraTepe 9 rj/JLwv only, 
without auro?, is the nominative to pL€T€Te6rjcrav, then the 
difficulty is removed; and this is a construction which is ap¬ 
proved of by critics of the highest order (Kuinoel, Olshau- 
sen, Hackett, Wordsworth), a certain allowance being made 
for a loose construction. The passage would then read as 
follows: u And Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he 
and our fathers. And they (our fathers) were removed to 

The third variation creates a more serious difficulty, as 
there is, according to the present reading, an evident con¬ 
tradiction. According to Stephen, Abraham purchased the 
sepulchre at Shechem from the sons of Emmor, the father 
of Shechem ; but according to the Mosaic account, not 
Abraham, but Jacob, purchased this field (Gen. xxxiii. 19; 
Josh. xxiv. 32). Abraham, on the contrary, purchased the 
cave at Hebron from Ephron the Hittite (Gen. xxiii. 16, 
xlix. 29). Hence it would appear that Stephen has con¬ 
founded the two purchases of Abraham and Jacob. Most 
critics have given up the attempt at reconciliation as hopeless, 
and have admitted that Stephen, in the excitement of the 
moment, fell into a mistake, and that Luke, or the editor 
of the speech, did not feel himself justified in correcting it 
(De Wette, Meyer, Olshausen, Lechler, Alford, Humphry). 
Some (Hammond, Krebs) would explain ’ A(3pad/Jb as a patro¬ 
nymic in the sense of Abrahamides—that is, Jacob; but 
such an explanation is arbitrary, and evidently erroneous. 
Others (Biscoe, Bengel, Liiger, Stier) suppose that Stephen, 
for the sake of brevity, unites the two transactions; and they 
thus paraphrase the passage: “ Jacob died, he and our fathers; 
and they were removed to Shechem (and to the sepulchre of 
Hebron): and they were laid (in the parcel of ground at 
Shechem, and) in the sepulchre (of Hebron) which Abra¬ 
ham (and Jacob) had bought for a sum of money from 
{Ephron the Hittite, and) from the sons of Emmor, the 



father of Shechem.” But this, so far from removing the 
difficulty, makes the discrepancy only the more apparent. 
In short, all solutions of the difficulty as the text now stands 
are inadmissible: 1 as Calvin observes, u It is plain that a 
mistake has been made in the name of Abraham ; this passage 
must be corrected.” Accordingly various critical emenda¬ 
tions have been suggested. Some (Beza, Bochart, Kuinoel, 
Whitby, Hackett) suppose that the word k4/3pad/x is spurious, 
and that the verb covgaaro stood by itself: so that the passage 
is to be rendered, u and laid in the sepulchre which one pur¬ 
chased;” and that some of the earliest transcribers, seeing the 
verb without a nominative, supplied ’Aftpad/A. The solution 
is plausible. It is, however, a mere conjectural emenda¬ 
tion, the authority of all mss. and versions being against its 
adoption. If an error has entered into the text, it must have 
been committed by one of the earliest copyists. If conjec¬ 
tural emendation is ever admissible, this is certainly a pas¬ 
sage where its exercise would be justifiable, considering the 
evident nature of the error, and the improbability that it 
was committed by Stephen, a man full of wisdom and of 
the Holy Ghost; and that, if committed, it was passed over 
without correction by the sacred historian. 

Yer. 18. BaaiXevs erepos — another king: not merely the 
successor of the last king, but another kind (erepo?) of king 
—the king of another dynasty (Ex. i. 8). u The crown 
being now come into another family” (Joseph. Ant. ii. 9. 1). 
According to Sir G. Wilkinson, this new king was Amosis 
or Ames, the first of the eighteenth dynasty, or that of the 
Diospolit.ans from Thebes. f/ 0? ov/c ghee tov ’Iwcnjcf)—ivho 
kneiv not Joseph: that is, say some* who did not recognise 
the merits of Joseph (Kuinoel, Olsliausen) ; or, according to 
others, who was entirely ignorant of his history and services 
to the land (Meyer, Lechler). The lapse of sixty years 
after the death of Joseph, taken in connection with the com- 

1 Dr. Wordsworth, in a long note, attempts to show that Abraham 
first purchased the field at Shechem, and that it was afterwards 
recovered by Jacob. This, however, appears to be an unnatural 

VOL. I. 




mencement of a new dynasty, sufficiently accounts for this 
ignorance of Joseph. 

Yer. 19. Tov iroielv ra /3pecf)r] e/cdera avrwv—so that they 
cast out their children. Meyer thinks that we have here the 
construction of the infinitive of purpose : he oppressed them 
in order to make them so desperate as to destroy their own 
children. But such a meaning does not suit the context, 
and is grammatically unnecessary. In Hellenistic Greek the 
indication of the purpose is often changed into that of the 
result (see Winer’s Grammar , p. 347, English translation). 
The reference is to the command of Pharaoh, given to the 
Egyptians, that they should cast out all the male infants of 
the Israelites into the Nile. 

Yer. 20. ’ Acrreios tg> 0ec3 —exceeding fair ; literally, “ fair 
toward God,” “beautiful in the judgment of God” (Winer, 
p. 262). The words, however, are to be regarded as a 
common Hebraism for the superlative of intensity, and the 
translation of our version is to be retained. Thus Nineveh 
is called in the Septuagint i roAt? yeyaXp rw @ew (Jonah 
iii. 11). So that the sense corresponds with the Mosaic 
narrative, where it is said of Moses that he was a goodly 
child (Ex. ii. 2). In Josephus Moses is called iralba yop(f>fj 
Oeiov (Ant. ii. 9. 7). There are many Jewish traditions which 
extol the beauty of Moses. Thus, Josephus informs us that 
none was so indifferent a spectator of beauty that he would not 
admire the beauty of Moses ; and that those who met him as 
lie was carried along the streets not only looked at the coun¬ 
tenance of the child, but also, forgetting other business, stood 
still a great while to gaze upon him : for such was the child’s 
beauty, that it captivated and detained the beholders (Ant. 
ii. 9. 6). 

Yer. 21. 'H dvydrpp d>apaco—the daughter of Pharaoh , 
called by Josephus and others Thermutis (Ant. ii. 9. 5). 
AvelXero avrov—took him up ; not adopted him, but lifted 
him out of the water. Kal dveOpe-yfaro avrov eavrfj et? vlov 
—and nourished him for her own son ; that is, he became by 
adoption the son of Pharaoh’s daughter : and the privileges 
of adoption in oriental countries are much greater than they 



are in our country. According to the Egyptian law, Moses 
would probably be regarded as the real son of Pharaoh’s 
daughter. According to Jewish tradition, Moses was chosen 
as Pharaoh’s successor. 

Ver. 22. Kal eTrcuhevOrj M. . . . AlyvTTTLcov—And Moses 
was educated in all the tvisdoni of the Egyptians. The Egyp¬ 
tians were at this period the most learned people in the world. 
Their learning, we are informed, embraced natural science, 
astronomy, and mathematics. “ Moses,” says Augustine, 
u took the wisdom of the Egyptians, as the people did the 
golden vessels.” But it is false to imagine that Moses, as the 
founder of the Jewish religion, was indebted for his religious 
opinions to his Egyptian training. There is no resemblance 
between the pure monotheism of the Hebrews and the low 
fetichism of the Egyptians. Avvaro ? ev Xoyot ?—mighty in 
words. In the Old Testament it is said of Moses that he 
was slow of speech, and of a slow tongue (Ex. iv. 10). In 
our passage it is affirmed that his words were weighty— 
that they were accompanied with power; and indeed it fre¬ 
quently happens that a powerful intellect is combined with 
a want of fluency in utterance. According to Josephus, 
u Moses was very able to persuade the people by his speeches" 
(Ant. iii. 1. 4). Kal epyocs avrov—and in his ivorks. This 
does not refer to his miracles wrought in Egypt and in the 
wilderness, but to the works performed in the early part of 
his life. We have no account of these in the Old Testament. 
On this period of his life sacred history is entirely silent. 
Josephus mentions that, when the Ethiopians invaded Egypt, 
Moses at the head of an army defeated them (Ant. ii. 10. 1). 

Ver. 23. f /2? be eTrXypovTO avrp reo-aapaKovraerf > ypoz'o? 
—and ivhen he was full forty years old. Stephen, according to 
a Jewish tradition, divides the age of Moses into three periods 
of forty years: forty years in Egypt (ver. 23) ; forty years 
in Midian (ver. 30); forty years in the wilderness (ver. 42). 
So in Bereschith Babba it is said : Moses in palatio Pharaonis 
40 annos degit , in Midiane 40 annos , et 40 annos Israeli mini- 
stravit. There are some traces of this division in the Old 
Testament. The whole age of Moses is stated at 120 years 



(Deut. xxxiv. 7), the period spent in the wilderness at 
forty years (Ex. xvi. 32), and his age when he stood before 
Pharaoh at eighty years (Ex. vii. 7). There is, however, no 
mention either of the time he spent in Egypt before his flight 
to Midian, or of the duration of his residence in that country. 

Ver. 24. 'EiroLgaev efcSl/crjcriv rw KaraTrovovyevw —avenged 
him that was oppressed. Moses felt impelled to be the de¬ 
liverer of Israel, the avenger of the wrongs of his brethren. 
Tlara^a? rov AlywrTiov — having smitten the Egyptian. In 
the preceding part of the verse it was not mentioned that it 
was an Egyptian who was the oppressor; but this is explained 
by the circumstance that the story was universally known. 

Ver. 25. Evoyu^e 3e crvvievai —for he supposed that his 
brethren would have understood. Stephen understood this act 
of Moses, by which he delivered an individual Israelite and 
slew an individual Egyptian, as an intimation of that national 
deliverance from Egyptian bondage which God would effect 
by his means (Lechler). Moses supposed that his brethren 
would have understood this, and would have readily acknow¬ 
ledged him as their deliverer. We are not informed on 
what grounds Moses founded his supposition. Probably he 
had before this divine intimations that he was the destined 
deliverer of Israel. The approach of the period of the pro¬ 
mised deliverance should have prepared the Israelites to 
expect it; and the appearance of such an illustrious person 
as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter to be their de¬ 
fender, should have induced them at least to investigate his 

Vers. 26-28. ''£l$6g — appeared , i.e. showed himself to 
them; appeared not of his own accord, but as the messenger 
of God. XvvrjXaaev avrovs et<? elpgvgv—urged them to peace. 
The verb signifies that he used efforts to reconcile them; 
literally, “ he drove them together into peace.” Mg dveXeiv 
ye av OeXeis, etc.— Wilt thou hill me, as thou didst kill the 
Egyptian ? It is plain that the speech of this individual is 
represented as expressing the sentiments of the whole body 
of the people—the feeling of Israel toward Moses. (See 
ver. 35.) 




Ver. 29. ’Ev <yfj MaStdjbc — in the land of Midian. Midian 
was a district of Arabia Petrgea lying along the eastern 
branch of the Red Sea, or the Elanitic Gulf, bordering on 
the country of Moab on the one side, and tlie wilderness of 
Sinai on the other. There is mention, in the travels of the 
middle ages, of the ruins of a city Madian, on the east side 
of the Elanitic Gulf. Probably the Midianites under Jethro 
were a nomadic tribe, as we do not find them in this district 
when the Israelites encamped at Mount Sinai. 

Ver. 30. ’Ev rfj epij/jLM tov opovs Xiva — in the wilderness 
of Mount Sinai. The Sinaitic peninsula is here indicated as 
the place where the call of Moses occurred: it was in the 
neighbourhood of Mount Sinai. In the New Testament and 
Josephus, Sinai only occurs, and not Horeb; whereas in the 
Pentateuch both names appear to be used indiscriminately. 
According to Robinson, Horeb is the general name for the 
whole mountain range, and Sinai is the name of the parti¬ 
cular mountain from which the law was given. ’MyyeXo?— 
an angel. It is generally admitted by recent critics that this is 
the correct reading, and not ayye\o$ Kvplov , as in the textus 
receptus. Commentators are almost equally divided as to 
whether this was a created angel or the Jehovah Angel—the 
Messenger of the Covenant—the Son of God (Isa. lxiii. 9). 
Meyer, Baumgarten, and Lechler think that a created being 
is here meant; whereas Bengel, Nitzsch, Lange, Stier, Heng- 
stenberg, Wordsworth, and Alford identify the angel with 
God, as the Jehovah Angel. The Mosaic narrative is in 
favour of the latter view. The Angel of the bush who guided 
the Israelites in the wilderness, is in the Old Testament fre¬ 
quently identified with God; and here He appropriates to 
Himself the titles of the Supreme Being: for, speaking out 
of the bush, He says: u I am the God of Abraham, and of 
Isaac, and of Jacob” (see Mark xii. 26). ’ Ev irvpl (fikoyos — 

in a flame of fire. The flaming fire was a supernatural light 
belonging to the glory of God. All attempts to explain it by 
natural causes—as a meteor, lightning, etc.—are unavailing. 
The heathen in their mythologies mention similar appear¬ 
ances. The Persians relate a similar story concerning their 



lawgiver Zoroaster: that, as lie was leading a solitary life in 
a mountain, he one day found it on fire, and approached it 
without danger, and sacrificed to God. 

Vers. 31—33. d>wvr) Kvplov—the voice of the Lord, i.e. the 
voice of the Jehovah Angel; for we do not think that these 
words can be explained by saying that the voice of God’s 
messenger is equivalent to the voice of God (Meyer). Avaov 
to viroSrjfia twv iroZwv crov—put off thy shoes from thy feet. 
The holiness of God’s presence, according to the custom of the 
East, required that Moses should be without shoes as a symbol 
of reverence. The priests in the temple, we are informed, 
performed their ministry without shoes. So also in the pre¬ 
sent day, the Arabs take off their shoes before entering their 
mosques (Alford). The probable reason of the custom was, 
lest the dust which was on their sandals should defile the 
holy place. 

Ver. 34. ’I8c bv elSov — I have distinctly seen ; literally, 
seeing I have seen : a Hebraism, though a similar construction 
sometimes occurs among the Greek classics (see Winer’s 
Grammar, p. 371). 

Ver. 35. Tovtov tov Mccvayv — this Moses. The frequent 
repetition of the pronouns ( tovtov , ovros, o?) in the following 
verses (vers. 35-38) imparts additional emphasis to the dis¬ 
course — this Moses, and none other. ''Ov rjpvr/aavTO — whom 
they denied: the plural used designedly, because the voice of 
one Israelite was the disposition of the whole nation. ,f Ap- 
yovra kol Xvrpcoryv—a rider and a redeemer. There is here, 
first, a contrast between the judgment of men and the deed 
of God : him whom they denied to be a ruler and a judge, 
God sent as a ruler and a redeemer. Secondly, there is a 
climax expressed in these words : the Israelites rejected Moses 
as a SiKaarys, a judge—one who decides private matters ; 
God sent him as a Xvrpcorys, a redeemer of the whole nation. 
Avrpcoryv — a redeemer. The word is frequently employed 
in the Septuagint, but does not again occur in the New 
Testament; the usual word to express the same idea being 

Vers. 36, 37. Ouro?, emphatic— this man. The terms of 



high respect in which Stephen here speaks of Moses tended 
to prove how false was the accusation that he was guilty of 
blaspheming him. With the same design of magnifying 
Moses, he brings forward the celebrated Messianic prophecy, 
fn which Moses represents himself as the type of the Messiah. 
The words are a free citation from the Septuagint of Deut. 
xviii. 15. The passage was already quoted by Peter in his 
address to the Jews. (See note on Acts iii. 22.) 

Ver. 38. Mera rod dyyeXou, real twv irarepcov rjgioov —ivith 
the angel , and with our fathers. Moses is thus represented as 
a mediator between the angel who conducted Israel through 
the wilderness, and the people : he intervened between them. 
Paul expressly calls him yaecrtV^?, mediator (Gal. iii. 19, 20). 
In this respect Moses was a remarkable type of Christ; 
and doubtless Stephen had this in view in insisting so much 
upon the rejection of Moses by the people. Aoyia ^wvra — 
living words: not to be translated life-giving (Beza, Grotius, 
Kuinoel), for then the word would be 'Cgvo'Koiovvra. Words 
which were not dead, but living, operating with divine 
power: proving themselves to be living, both by imparting 
life to those who obeyed them, and by killing those who dis¬ 
obeyed them. 

Ver. 39. ’Earpdcpricrav rfj tcaphla avrwv — in their heart 
turned hack to Egypt. This does not mean that they wished 
to return to Egypt; for this does not correspond with the 
historical narrative. At this time the Israelites expressed no 
wish to return to Egypt: on the contrary, the memory of 
their recent hardships in that country made them thankful 
for their deliverance. Afterwards, indeed, when the memory 
of these hardships faded, they desired to make a captain, 
and to return to Egypt (Num. xiv. 4). The meaning, then, 
is either that they longed after the good things of Egypt 
(Num. xi. 5); or perhaps rather, as appears from the con¬ 
text, that they apostatized in heart to the gods of Egypt. 
So Meyer, Stier, Alford, Humphry. It is improbable that 
a nation so disposed to idolatry as the Israelites would have 
resided so long in such an idolatrous country as Egypt with¬ 
out being contaminated with its superstitions. It would 



appear from a statement of Ezekiel, that they had been ad¬ 
dicted to the worship of the idols of Egypt whilst they lived 
in that country (Ezek. xx. 7). 

Ver. 40. Ol irpoiropevaovTai rjpt,wv—who will go before us: 
not, who will go before us in our return to Egypt; but, wlio 
will conduct us as Moses did to the promised land. f O yap 
Mwvcrrjs ovto<;— for this Moses. The nominative absolute 
stands first, to render the whole sentence emphatic. Ovk 
oiSafiev ri yeyovev avrw — we hiovi not ichat has become of 
him. The allusion is to his stay of forty days on the top of 
Mount Sinai. The wjiole verse is taken verbatim from the 
Septuagint of Ex. xxxii. 1, except that the words 6 avOpcoiros 
after ouro? are omitted. 

Ver. 41. Epoayorcouiqcjav — they made a calf: a word 
found nowhere else. In the Septuagint the equivalent ex¬ 
pression is €7 Toirjaav yocryov. The Israelites appear to have 
intended this calf to be the image or emblem, not of any 
Egyptian god, but of Jehovah, who had delivered them from 
Egypt. Aaron, on the occasion of this worship, proclaimed 
a feast to the Lord (Ex. xxxii. 4). u They changed,” says 
the Psalmist, u the glory of God into the image of an ox 
which eateth grass” (Ps. cvi. 20). See also Neh. ix. 18. So 
that their sin, strictly considered, consisted in the violation 
of the second commandment—worshipping God through the 
medium of a graven image. It is certain, however, that 
this species of idolatry was borrowed from Egypt. There 
the ox was worshipped both at Memphis under the name 
Apis, and at Heliopolis under the name Mnevis: at both 
places divine homage was paid to living bulls. The common 
opinion is, that the golden calf was an imitation of Apis, but 
Ewald supposes that it was Mnevis; and this opinion is 
advocated by Sir George Wilkinson, who observes : u The 
offerings, dancings, and rejoicings practised on that occasion 
were doubtless in imitation of a ceremony they had witnessed 
in honour of Mnevis.” Calf-worship was afterwards estab¬ 
lished by Jeroboam in the kingdom of Israel, and appears 
to have continued so long as that kingdom endured. Here 
also it is evident that Jeroboam did not wish to introduce 



the worship of new gods, but that he regarded the calves as 
emblems of the true God; for he introduced his worship with 
the same proclamation which Aaron made to the Israelites 
(1 Kings xii. 28). 

Ver. 42. "Karpe^re he 6 ©eo?— but God turned —withdrew 
Himself from them, thus showing His manifest displeasure 
at their iniquity. Ty arpartg rod ovpavov—the host of heaven. 
That to which God gave them up as a judgment was star- 
worship (Sabeanism), which appears to have been the earliest 
form of idolatry (Job xxxi. 26), and which was native to 
Chaldea. As animal-worship was the prevalent form of 
Egyptian idolatry, so was star-worship the prevalent Chaldean 
form. ’Ev {3 l{3\w twv 'TTpocpyrcov — in the book of the prophets; 
that is, of the twelve minor prophets, whose prophecies 
among the Jews formed one book. 

Vers. 42, 43. A quotation, with a few trivial alterations, 
from the Septuagint of Amos v. 25-27, except that here 
Ba/3v\wvo<; is substituted for Aayacncov (see below). There 
is, however, a difference between the Septuagint and the 
Hebrew. In our version it is, u Ye have borne the taber¬ 
nacle of your Molech and Chiun, your images” (Amos v. 
26). Many Hebrew scholars (Bengel, De Wette, Hengsten- 
berg), however, suppose that Molech and Chiun are not 
proper names, but appellatives; and that the clause should 
have been translated, u Ye have borne the tabernacle of 
your king (Molech), and the support or framework (Chiun) 
of your images.” Other authorities defend the translation 
given in our version. The Septuagint evidently regarded 
the words as proper names: it, however, substitutes the word 
Rephan for Chiun. Rephan is a Coptic word, and is sup¬ 
posed to be the Egyptian equivalent for Chiun, an Arabic 
w r ord, and both denoting the god Saturn. 

My cr(f)d<yia nai Ova Las 'Kpoarjve^KaTe^ etc.— Have ye offered 
to me sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the wilderness ? 
The question thus put by God through the prophet evidently 
supposes a negative answer: that the Israelites had not 
offered sacrifices and offerings to God during the forty years 
in the wilderness. The apparent contradiction between this 



statement and the accounts of the sacrifices in the Mosaic 
narrative is easily removed, by taking the words rhetorically. 
Their idolatrous disposition rendered nugatory all the sacri¬ 
fices which they offered to God : it vitiated their worship : 
it was as if they had never sacrificed to Him. Hence there 
is no reason, with Olshausen and Kuincel, to explain /jlol as 
equivalent to e’/zot /zoz/w, or to suppose that the prophet 
alludes not to their legal, hut to their voluntary sacrifices. 
n v cncrivrjv rod Mo\o%—the tabernacle of Molecli. Molech 
was the tutelar god of the Ammonites (1 Kings xi. 7). He 
is supposed by some to have been the Phoenician Saturn, and 
by others to have been the Sun, or the Tyrian Baal. If 
Molech and Bephan are different idols, the latter opinion is 
the more correct, it being now generally agreed that Keplian 
is the Egyptian name for Saturn. The worship, however, 
of the god Molech is similar to that which was paid to 
Saturn. According to rabbinical tradition, the image of 
Molech was a hollow figure, with the head of an ox and 
outstretched arms. A fire was kindled below, and a child 
was put into its arms, and was thus burned to death. The 
priests beat their drums in order to stifle the cries of the 
child, and hence the image was called Topliet ( tophim , 
drums). Now this is precisely similar to the description of 
the worship of Saturn among the Carthaginians, given us by 
Diodorus Siculus. u They had,” he says, “ an image of 
Saturn made of brass, stretching out his hands, extended 
towards the earth ; so that a child being put into them, fell 
into a great gulf of fire.” The worship of Molech w r as pre¬ 
valent among the Jews after their establishment in Canaan. 
Solomon, we are informed, erected a high place to Molech, 
the abomination of the children of Ammon (1 Kings xi. 7) ; 
and from his time, with some intermissions, until the extinc¬ 
tion of the kingdom of Judah in the reign of Zedekiah, the 
abominable rites of Molech were practised (Jer. xxxii. 35). 
By the tabernacle or tent of Molech is probably meant a 
portable tent, wherein the statue of the god was placed. 
Diodorus Siculus mentions the lepa arcpvr} in the camp of the 
Carthaginians. To dcrrpov rod 6eov 'Pecjxzv—the star of the 



god Rephan. Rephan is the translation in the Septuagint 
of the Hebrew Chiun. He is generally supposed to be the 
same as Saturn. According to Kircher, Rephan is a Coptic 
word, and answers to the planet Saturn, and Chiun is the 
Arabic term for the same planet; and as the translators were 
Egyptian Jews, they gave to the Hebrew word its Coptic 
equivalent (see Winer’s Worterbucli , Saturn). Some suppose 
that Molech and Rephan are names for the same idol, and 
that both denote the god Saturn ; and certainly the peculiar 
worship of Molech favours this supposition : they, however, 
appear to be distinguished in the text. ’ Eire/cei-va Ba(3v- 
\mvos— beyond Babylon. Here the words differ from the 
Septuagint, where we read iirerceiva Aayaa/cov — beyond 
Damascus; with which also the Hebrew agrees. The fulfil¬ 
ment of the prophecy in the well-known Babylonish cap¬ 
tivity, made it natural and permissible to substitute Babylon 
for Damascus. 

There is a difference of opinion with regard to the time 
when this idolatry took place : whether it was in the wilder¬ 
ness or after the establishment of Israel in the promised 
land. There is no mention elsewhere of the god Rephan or 
Chiun ; but the worship of Molech was prevalent in the 
kingdom of Judah. Some accordingly suppose that it is 
these idolatries which are referred to. But the words of 
the prophet appear rather to refer to the idolatries practised 
during the forty years in the wilderness. Molech was at 
that time a god not unknown to the Israelites, for they are 
expressly warned against his cruel rites (Lev. xviii. 21); and 
if there is reason to suppose that he is the same as the 
Tyrian Baal, then this idolatry may be referred to the wor¬ 
ship of Baal-peor on the plains of Moab (Num. xxv. 2, 3). 

Ver. 44. ( H cncrjvT) tov gapTvpiov—the tabernacle of witness: 
the translation of — u the tabernacle of the congre¬ 

gation.” It is so called because it was the tent where God 
gave witness of Himself; on which the glory of God, the 
Shekinah, rested. There does not appear to be any designed 
contrast to cncyvi) tov Mo\o%. Kadcos Bierd^aro, etc. —as 
He who spoke to Moses commanded to make it according to the 

2 52 


pattern which he had seen . (See Ex. xxv. 40 ; Heb. viii. 5.) 
The holiness of the tabernacle was evident from this cir¬ 
cumstance, that its pattern was revealed by God to Moses. 
As Stephen had been accused of blaspheming the Jewish 
religion, he here in his defence speaks with the greatest 
reverence of their sacred places. 

Ver. 45. AiaBe^dgevoi -— having received . The word lite¬ 
rally signifies, having received by succession, or succeeded to. 
Mera *Iycrov• — with Jesus , i.e. Joshua : for the names Jesus 
and Joshua are the same, both signifying a saviour. ’Ev 
rf) Karaa^eaei rwv eOvwv — into the possession of the Gentiles. 
Here the preposition iv is used, when we would have ex¬ 
pected et? : the probable force of it being, that the tabernacle 
was so brought into the possession of the Gentiles, that it 
permanently remained there; the idea both of entrance and 
of subsequent rest being implied. Winer observes that the 
Greeks, even Homer, sometimes use iv with verbs of motion, 
to indicate at the same time the result of the motion, that is, 
rest (Winers Grammar , p. 432). Meyer, De Wette, and 
Alford render the clause, u at their taking possession of the 
Gentiles.” "E co? twv ggepwv Aa(3lB — until the days of David. 
These words are to be connected with wv e^waev, u whom 
the Lord drove out until the days of David” (Kuincel, 
Baumgarten, Alford)—inasmuch as the work of driving out 
the Canaanitish nations continued until the time of David— 
and not with elagyayov, u which our fathers brought in with 
Jesus until the days of David” (De Wette, Meyer, Lechler, 
Hackett, Cook), inasmuch as this is the more remote ante¬ 
cedent, and besides, hardly affords an intelligible sense. 

Ver. 46. Kal yrgcraTo — and requested; not desired , as in 
the English version. The medium of David’s request and 
of God’s answer was the prophet Nathan, ^/cyvcoga tw 
G eo) ’I afccofi — a dwelling for the God of Jacob : probably a 
quotation from Ps. cxxxii. 3 (Septuagint, cxxxi. 3). 
vwpa , a dwelling , in distinction from cr/crjvf a tent. 

Vers. 47, 48. XoXogwv Be (p/coBogrjcrev, etc .—But Solomon 
built Dim a house. David was not permitted to build the 
temple, because he was a man of war, and the temple was to 



be the abode of peace. ’AW’ ouy 6 iev 'yeipoTroigTOLs 
KdToucel — TIowbeit the Most High dwelleth not in what are 
made with hands. Baur and Zeller suppose that there is 
here a designed depreciation of the temple on the part of 
Stephen—an attack upon the Jewish mode of worship. But 
there is no ground for such a supposition, as the same senti¬ 
ment was expressed by Solomon himself, and indeed in 
stronger terms, at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 
viii. 27). 

Yers. 49, 50. The passage here quoted is from Isa. Ixvi. 
1 , 2, and is taken almost verbatim from the Septuagint. 
Stephen here quotes this passage, because it was of import¬ 
ance for him to show that the spiritual worship which he 
inculcated, in opposition to the legalism of the Pharisees, 
had been already enforced by their own prophets. 

Yer. 51. Xn:\rjporpd^rjXoL—Ye stiff-necked. Here, on a 
sudden, Stephen breaks out into an invective. Hitherto he 
had treated the subject historically, now he becomes personal 
in his remarks: hitherto his tone was calm and didactic, now 
it becomes vehement and passionate. Accordingly, some 
(Olshausen, Kuinoel, Heinrichs) account for this remarkable 
change on the supposition that he was here interrupted 
either by the shouts of hrs audience, or by their threatening 
gestures. Schwanbeck discovers here an omission of the 
reporter. 1 Others (Meyer, Lechler, Neander, Alford) think 
that the change of tone arose naturally out of the speech. 
u Stephen,” observes Meyer, u has ended his calm historical 
narrative ; but now it is time that the accused should become 
the bold accuser, and apply the result of his observations to 
his judges. Therefore he interrupts his calm defence, and 
as a prophet of reproof addresses his judges in the language 
of moral indignation.” Neander supposes that the contem¬ 
plation of the idolatries and wickedness which followed the 
age of Solomon overcame him, and filled his soul with holy 
indignation, which found vent in a torrent of rebuke against 
his ungodly and hypocritical judges. We have no right to 
suppose that Stephen here either indulged in impatience or 
1 Scliwanbeck’s Quellen der Apostelgeschichte, p. 252. 



i^ave way to passion : he only exercised the function of a 
stern reprover of iniquity. 

Yer. 52. Toy Sucaiov—the Just One. Stephen here for 
the first time reprimands the Jews with being the betrayers 
and murderers of their Messiah, and bears testimony to the 
Messiahship of Jesus. Their fathers had been moved with 
envy against Joseph, the saviour of their house, and had re¬ 
jected Moses, the deliverer of their nation ; but this iniquity 
reached its height in themselves by the rejection and cruci¬ 
fixion of the Just One: this was the climax of the nation’s guilt. 

Yer. 53. Eh ^Laraya^ ayyeXcov—as ordinances of angels. 
Different meanings have been attached to these words. Some 
(Grotius, Calvin) render them, troops of angels being present; 
but this would be to take Siarayas in the sense of 
a meaning which it does not bear. Lightfoot supposes that 
d'yryeXojv here is to he taken in the sense of messengers, and 
that the prophets are meant. Chrysostom supposes that the 
angel who spoke unto Moses in the bush, the Jehovah Angel, 
is meant. The correct meaning seems to be, u as ordinances 
of angels” (Bengel, Decider) : that is to say, that the Israel¬ 
ites received the law r with such respect as if it were the 
ordinances of angels; as Paul said of the Galatians, u Ye 
received me as an angel of God” (Gal. iv. 14). Or perhaps 
rather it may refer to the law being communicated by the 
ministration of angels. We have several intimations of the 
presence of angels at the giving of the law. In the Mosaic 
narrative there is no mention of it. Traces of it are, how¬ 
ever, found in the Septuagint. Thus, in Dent, xxxiii. 2 we 
read etc avrov d^yeXot /jlgt avrov, where the Hebrew 

has, “ From His right hand went a fiery law for them.” In 
the Psalms we are informed that the angels were present at 
Sinai (Ps. lxviii. 17). St. Paul expressly says that the law 
was ordained of angels— Siarayeh 3d dyyeXcov (Gal. iii. 19). 
And the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews mentions it 
as u the word spoken by angels” (Heb. ii. 2). The same 
opinion was among the traditions of the Jews. Josephus 
mentions that the Jews learned the holiest part of the law 
from angels [Ant. xv. 5. 3). 




Opinions are divided concerning this speech of Stephen. 
Some regard it as inconclusive, illogical, and full of errors; 
others praise it as a complete refutation of the charges 
brought against him, and as worthy of the fulness of the 
Spirit with which he was inspired. Erasmus says : u Many 
things in this speech have not very much pertinency to the 
matter in hand which Stephen undertook.” On the other 
hand, Bengel observes : u Although he does not put his 
enunciations in direct contradiction to the enunciations of 
his adversaries, yet he answers all the charges with power” 
(Benge! s Gnomon, Acts vii. 1). The relation of the speech 
of Stephen, in all its particulars, to the charges brought 
against him is certainly at first sight not obvious ; and, ac¬ 
cordingly, different opinions have been formed as to the 
object which Stephen had in view. According to Grotius, 
Stephen’s object is to show in an historical manner that the 
favour of God is not bound to any place, and that the Jews 
had no preference over those who were not Jews, in order 
to justify his prophecy concerning the destruction of the 
temple and the call of the Gentiles. But the doctrine con¬ 
cerning the call of the Gentiles appears neither to have been 
understood by Stephen, nor was it brought as a charge 
against him; and certainly there is no justification of it in 
his speech. According to Baur, the theme of the discourse 
consists in this: u The more gloriously God manifested His 
grace to Israel, even from the beginning, the more perverse 
and ungrateful was the conduct of the people ; ,J1 but such a 
theme suits only a portion of the speech. Meyer represents 
the chief thought of the speech to be as follows: “ I stand 
here accused and persecuted, not because I am a blasphemer 
of the law and of the temple, but in consequence of that 
spirit of resistance to God and His messengers which ye, 
according to the testimony of history, have received from 
your fathers, and have yourselves fostered. Thus the guilt 

1 Baur’s Apostel Paulas , vol. i. p. 50; Zeller’s Apostelgescliichte , p. 
148 ; Davidson’s New Introduction , vol. ii. pp. 198, 199. 



is not mine, but yours.” 1 Olshausen conceives that Stephen’s 
reason for narrating the history of the Old Testament was 
just to show the Jews that he believed it, and thus to induce 
them through love of their national history to listen with 
calm attention. 2 Chrysostom thinks that Stephen’s object 
was to prove the superiority of the promise to the law. u He 
shows here,” he observes, i( that the promise was made before 
the place, before circumcision, before sacrifice, before the 
temple.” 3 Similar views are also advocated by Liiger and 

It is to be observed that the speech of Stephen is an 
unfinished production. He was interrupted before he came 
to the conclusion. He had only entered upon the principal 
part of his discourse—his testimony to Jesus as the Messiah. 
We are therefore to regard it as in a measure imperfect. It 
is indeed an apology or defence against the accusations with 
which he was charged. He shows that, so far from being a 
blasphemer of Moses, he honoured him as the prophet of 
God and the redeemer of Israel; and so far from attacking 
the temple, he regarded both it and the tabernacle as divine 
institutions. At the same time, he shows that what God 
requires is obedience and spiritual worship, and not mere 
reliance on outward privileges. But along with this apolo¬ 
getic nature of the discourse, there enters a strong polemic 
element. He attacks the legalism and unbelief of the Phari¬ 
sees. In citing the examples of the rejection of Joseph and 
Moses by their fathers, he indirectly points to the rejection of 
Jesus; in recounting the apostasies of their forefathers, he 
describes in a figure the unbelief and rebellion of his hearers; 
and in that portion of his speech where his enemies interrupt 
him, as the intrepid messenger of God, he fearlessly attacks 
their obstinacy and resistance of the Holy Ghost, and, like 
Peter, charges them with being the betrayers and murderers 
of their Messiah. Stephen probably adopted the form of a 
historical narrative, in order to veil for a time his attack on 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 151, Dritte Auflage. 

2 Olshausen’s Gospel and Acts, vol. iv. p. 316, Clark’s translation. 

3 Chrysostom on the Acts , Horn. xv. 



Jewish legalism, so that he might secure the attention of his 
hearers. This view of Stephen’s speech is similar to that 
given by Neander. u The object of Stephen’s discourse,” 
he observes, “ was not simple, but complex; yet it was so 
constructed that the different topics were linked together in 
the closest manner. Its primary object was certainly apolo¬ 
getic ; but as he forgot himself in the subject with which he 
was inspired, his apologetic efforts relate to the truths main¬ 
tained by him, and impugned by his adversaries, rather than 
to himself. Hence, not satisfied with defending, he developed 
and enforced the truths he had proclaimed; and at the same 
time condemned the carnal, ungodly temper of the Jews, 
which was little disposed to receive the truth. Thus, with 
the apologetic element, the didactic and polemic were com¬ 
bined. Stephen first refutes the charges made against him, 
of enmity against the people of God, of contempt of their 
sacred institutions, and of blaspheming Moses. He traces 
the procedure of the divine providence in guiding the people 
of God from the times of their progenitors. He notices the 
promises and their progressive fulfilment, to the end of all 
the promises, the end of the whole development of the 
theocracy—the advent of the Messiah, and the work to be 
accomplished by Him. But with this narrative he blends 
his charges against the Jewish nation. He shows that their 
ingratitude and unbelief, proceeding from a carnal mind, 
became more flagrant in proportion as the promises were 
fulfilled, or given with greater fulness; and their conduct in 
the various preceding periods of the development of God’s 
kingdom was a specimen of the disposition they now evinced 
towards the publication of the gospel.” 1 

The genuineness of Stephen’s speech has been called in 
question by Baur and Zeller, but certainly without reason. 
It bears in its nature and contents the. impress of authen¬ 
ticity. If a spurious composition, it would have borne a 
more direct relation to the accusations, and been a clearer 
refutation of them ; or it w T ould have been more fully an 
attack upon the Jewish rulers. The last verses of the speech 
1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 52, Bolin’s edition. 

VOL. I. 




would have been more extended. The historical references 
also would have been more obvious in their application ; and 
the apparent discrepancies to the Mosaic narrative, with 
which the speech abounds, would have been either fewer in 
number or entirely omitted. 1 

With regard to the mode of its transmission, we are not 
indeed to consider it as taken down by a shorthand writer in 
the court where it was uttered. This would be to transfer 
modern appliances to ancient times. But the speech of the 
first martyr must have made a deep impression on the church, 
and would probably be immediately noted down. Some of 
the disciples may have been present when it was delivered, 
or some of the members of the Sanhedrim may have been 
secret friends. Many (Baumgarten, Liiger, Wordsworth, 
Humphry, Alford) suppose that Paul himself was the re¬ 
porter, as he w r as most probably present when the speech 
was made; but as at that time he was not a Christian, but 
an opponent, the supposition is, to say the least, doubtful. 
Stephen’s speech, however, was probably a separate docu¬ 
ment, which Luke incorporated in his work, as there is a 
certain peculiarity of style and expression about it. 

Opinions are divided as to the language in which the speech 
was spoken. Meyer supposes, that although a Hellenist, yet 
before the Sanhedrim Stephen must have spoken in the 
language of the country, that is, in the Aramaic dialect of 
the Hebrew. Others, again (De Wette, Lechler, Stier, 
Alford), think that Greek was the language employed. 
Greek was the native language of Stephen, and history 
informs us that it was occasionally employed in the judicial 
transactions of the Jews : besides, all the numerous refer¬ 
ences to the Old Testament are taken almost verbatim from 
the Septuagint. The mere fact, however, of all the quota¬ 
tions being from the Septuagint is no proof that the language 
in which Stephen spoke was Greek, inasmuch as they might 
fairly be thus inserted by the original reporter or by Luke. 

1 Dean Stanley enumerates no less than twelve variations from the 
Mosaic narrative. 


MARTYRDOM OF STEPHEN.— Acts vn. 54-60. 

54 But, hearing these things, they were cut to the heart, and they 
gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy 
Ghost, looking up stedfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and 
Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, Behold, I 
see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand 
of God. 57 Then they, crying out with a loud voice, stopped their 
ears, and rushed upon him with one accord. 58 And, casting him out 
of the city, they stoned him ; and the witnesses laid down their gar¬ 
ments at the feet of a young man called Saul. 59 And they stoned 
Stephen, invoking and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And, 
falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, Lord, retain not this 
sin to them. And saying this, he fell asleep. 


Ver. 56. 'Avewyyevovs, found in D, E, H, is not so well 
attested as $LyvoLyyevov<;, found in A, B, C, N, the reading 
preferred by Tischendorf. 


Ver. 54. ’A/covovres Se ravra — But hearing these things. 
The speech of Stephen, especially its direct personal appli¬ 
cation at the close (vers. 51-53), enraged his audience. 
Their conscience told them that his reproofs were too well 
founded ; and their rage, hitherto with much difficulty re¬ 
strained, now found a vent. Ateirpiovro rat? /capSiaos avrcov 
—they were cut to the heart ; literally, they were sawn through 
or asunder —the same verb which is used in ch. v. 33. (See 
note.) A different verb is employed when it is said of the 
converts on the day of Pentecost, that u they were pierced 




to the heart.” There the verb is Karavvacro) (ch. ii. 37). Kal 
e/3pv)^ov tou? 686 vTa 9 eir avrov — and they gnashed on him 
with their teeth: an expression frequently used in the Old 
Testament to denote furious rage. See Job xvi. 9; Ps. 
xxxiv. 16, xxxvi. 12, in the Septuagint. Still, however, the 
members of the Sanhedrim had not recourse to open vio¬ 
lence : they express their rage by threatening gestures. It 
was what follows that gave occasion to their assault upon 

Ver. 55. 'Tirapywy he TrXyprjs Uveygaro 9 ciylov — But he , 
being full of the Holy Ghost. Fixing his gaze upwards, a 
vision of heaven was granted to Stephen. The vision was 
internal, not external—subjective, not objective: it was seen 
by Stephen only, and not by any of his hearers. It is then 
childish to inquire how he could see through the roof of 
the chamber where they were assembled. To his spirit the 
heavens appeared opened ; the veil that conceals the heavenly 
world from the view of mortals was removed ; a visionary 
representation of heaven, and of Jesus standing at the right 
hand of God, was vouchsafed to him. u The scene before 
his eyes was no longer the council-hall at Jerusalem, and 
the circle of his infuriated judges; but he gazed up into the 
endless courts of the celestial Jerusalem, with its innumer¬ 
able company of angels, and saw Jesus, in whose righteous 
cause he was about to die” (Conybeare and Howson). Ao%av 
0 eov — the glory of God , i.e. the glory in which God mani¬ 
fests Himself, the Shekinah of the Jews. (Compare ver. 2, 
o 060? t^9 9 .) 'lyaovv ecrrwTa ev Se^iwv rod Oeov — 

Jesus standing at the right hand of God. In other places, 
Jesus is represented as 11 sitting on the right hand of God” 
(Matt. xxvi. 64) : but here Stephen sees Him standing; 
rising as it were from the throne of His glory to protect 
and defend His distressed servant, and to receive him. So 
Bengel: Quasi obvium Stephano. Or, as Gregory the Great 
expresses it, in a passage adduced by Ivuinoel: Sedere judi- 
cantis et imperantis est , stare vero pugnantis vel adjuvantis. 
Stephanus stantem vidit quem adjutorem liabuit. Alford’s 
explanation, that the vision has reference to Joshua the 



high priest standing in the presence of the angel of the 
Lord (Zech. iii. 1), and that Stephen, cited before the Sad- 
ducean high priest, is vouchsafed a vision of the heavenly 
High Priest standing and ministering at the throne, amid 
the angels and just men made perfect, is not so natural, 
and appears far-fetched. De Wette and other critics, on 
the other hand, think that to explain the mere posture of 
standing is fanciful, and is giving a mystical meaning to 
Scripture. All rationalistic attempts to explain this vision of 
Stephen are unavailing, and contradict the text: as that of 
Hezel, who supposes that Stephen, looking up, saw through 
the window a bright cloud, which he regarded as the symbol 
of the divine presence; that of Michaelis, who supposes that 
Stephen here only expressed his strong faith in the glory of 
Christ, and his approaching admission into heaven ; and 
that of Baur, who thinks that the historian wished to give 
distinctness to his individual view of the subject, by express¬ 
ing himself as if an ecstatic vision had actually been granted 
to Stephen. 

Ver. 56. Tov 9 ovpavovs $Lr)voiypL€vov<z — the heavens opened. 
The plural is employed, according to the Jewish notion of 
three heavens—the air, the celestial firmament, and the 
highest heaven, or the immediate residence of the divine 
glory. Stephen saw through all these heavens : like Paul, 
he was carried in spirit to the third heaven. Tov vlov tov 
dvOpdoTrov — the Son of man. This title, which Christ often 
gave to Himself, was never applied to Him by any of the 
apostles or evangelists, except in this place by Stephen. It 
does not occur in the Gospels in the mouth of another, nor is 
it found at all in the epistles, nor elsewhere in the Acts of 
the Apostles. It is here used by Stephen, probably to denote 
that Jesus appeared to him in human form, as that same 
Jesus whom the Jewish rulers crucified, and also to intimate 
that this Jesus was the Messiah. The reference is probably 
to the name by which the Messiah was generally known 
among the Jews, as given Him by the prophet Daniel (Dan. 
vii. 13) ; and also because it was the peculiar Messianic 
name which Jesus most frequently appropriated to Himself. 



The peculiar use of this name, as well as the mention of 
the singular posture of standing instead of sitting, are testi¬ 
monies in favour of the authenticity of the narrative. 

Ver. 57. Kpatjavres Se (fxovf) yeyaXi 7 —Then they , crying out 
with a loud voice. When Stephen announced his vision, that 
he saw that same Jesus whom they had rejected and mur¬ 
dered standing as the Son of man—the promised Messiah— 
exalted to the right hand of eternal glory, their rage knew 
no bounds : they could restrain themselves no longer; their 
pent-up passions broke through every barrier. They inter¬ 
rupted him with loud shouts, perhaps that the charge of 
blasphemy brought against him was proved by his own 
words, and that he should be stoned to death (Acts xxii. 22 ). 
They stopped their ears, to prevent them hearing any more 
such blasphemy. They rushed upon him with one accord : 
the audience was worked up into a frenzy : the Jewish 
fanatics then present seized upon Stephen : and some of the 
members of the Sanhedrim perhaps joined in the outrage ; 
for when passion is excited, reason and justice are gone. 

Ver. 58. Kal eicfiaXovTes e£eo ri}? Trokeoos—and casting him 
out of the city. According to the Mosaic law, malefactors 
among the Jews were executed without the gates of their 
cities (Lev. xxiv. 14). Thus our Lord suffered without the 
gate. Locus lapidationis erat extra urhem; omnes enim 
civitates , muris cinctce , paritatem hahent ad castra Israelis : 
Gloss in Bahyl. Sanhedr. (Meyer.) 'EXtOoftoXovv—they 
stoned him. Stoning was a Jewish mode of punishment 
inflicted on different kinds of capital offences. One of these 
offences was blasphemy, the crime of which Stephen was 
accused, and for which he was now stoned (Lev. xxiv. 16). 
The manner in which this punishment was inflicted is thus 
described by the Jewish rabbis :—The scaffold or place of 
stoning, to which the criminal was to be led with his hands 
bound, was to be twice the size of a man. One of the 
witnesses was then to smite him with a stone upon the breast, 
so as to throw him down. If he were not killed, the second 
witness was to throw another stone at him. And then, if he 
were yet alive, all the people were to stone him until he was 



dead. The body was then to be suspended till sunset. (See 
Lightfoot’s Horae Hebraicce .) Kal ol gaprvpes—and the , 
tcitnesses. According to the law of Moses, the witnesses 
were to cast the first stones (Deut. xvii. 6, 7). The wit¬ 
nesses here mentioned are those false witnesses who accused 
Stephen of speaking blasphemous words against the temple 
and the law (Acts vi. 13). “ Although/’ observes Beza, 

u all these things were done tumultuously, and that not 
without violation of the authority of the governor of the 
province, yet they would seem to do nothing but what the 
law of God enjoined them.” Neavlov icaXovpLevov Xavkov — 
a young man named, Saul. The first mention of the great 
apostle of the Gentiles : he appears on the stage of eccle¬ 
siastical history in connection with the murder of Stephen, 
evidently a zealot of the pharisaical school, and a bitter 
enemy of Christianity. His name, Saul, was the same as 
that of the first king of Israel, who also, like him, belonged 
to the tribe of Benjamin. Probably the name, rendered 
illustrious by King Saul, was common in his native tribe. 
Paul is here called veavlas, a young man; but this deter¬ 
mines nothing as to his age, because this term is applied 
even up to the age of forty-five. Thus Varro says a man 
is young ( juvenis ) till forty-five, and aged at sixty. Dio 
Cassius calls Csesar a young man when he was about forty. 
Thirty years after the martyrdom of Stephen, Paul speaks 
of himself as u being such an one as Paul the aged” (irpea- 
/3 ut?7 ?, Philem. 9) ; so that then he could not be under 
sixty. 1 Therefore at this period he must have been at least 
thirty; and indeed we can hardly suppose, if he were much 
under that age, that the Sanhedrim would have entrusted 
him with so important a commission, when they sent him to 
Damascus. Probably Chrysostom is not far from the truth, 
when he states that Paul, at the time of Stephen’s death, 
was thirty-five. There is, however, no reason to suppose, 
with Alford and others, that he was a member of the San¬ 
hedrim, and one of Stephen’s judges. (See note to ch. xxvi. 

1 “ How different,” observes Dr. Wordsworth, “ was Saul the young 
man from Paul the aged ! ” 



10.) Paul does not seem to have taken any active part in 
, the death of Stephen : he cast no stone at him ; but still, by 
willingly taking charge of the garments of those who slew 
him, he showed how heartily he consented to this deed of 
theirs. To this act he alludes, years afterwards, in his de¬ 
fence before the Jews : “ When the blood of Thy martyr 
Stephen was shed, I also was standing by and consenting to 
his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 
xxii. 20). 

Ver. 59. 'E'rreicaXoupevov — invoking. It is not directly 
said whom Stephen invoked, but the prayer which follows 
intimates that it was Jesus. Hence, then, the ellipsis is either 
to be left unsupplied, or supplied either by the name “Jesus ” 
or by the words “ the Lord; ” but not, as in our English 
version, by the name “ God” ( calling upon God). The effect 
of this interpolation is to draw away the attention from Jesus 
as the person to whom the prayer was addressed, and thus 
to obscure a strong proof of the divinity of Christ. Rupee 
9 Irjaov—Lord Jesus. Here undoubtedly Stephen prays to 
Jesus; and all attempts to explain this away are unavailing, 
and rejected by critics even of the rationalistic school. It 
has been asserted that Lrjcrov is in the genitive, and that 
the words ought to be translated “Lord of Jesus;” but, 
as Kuinoel observes, this would require the article, and we 
should read Rupee tou ’Ir/aod ; and besides, the same words 
are used in Rev. xxii. 20, ep^ou Rupee Lyaou, where ’Iyaou 
is undoubtedly in the vocative. Paul describes Christians as 
those who “call upon the name of Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 
i. 2). Aefae to irveuyd peou — receive my spirit. The petition 
is not similar to the impatient requests of Moses (Num. 
xi. 15), Elijah (1 Kings xix. 4), and Jonah (Jonah iv. 3), 
that God would take away their lives; but it is a request 
that God would receive His spirit after martyrdom—similar 
to the prayer of Jesus on the cross, “Father, into Thy hands 
I commend my spirit ” (Luke xxiii. 46). Thus, then, Stephen 
worships Christ in the same manner as Christ before His 
death worshipped the Father. 

Ver. 60. ©el? ra yovara — falling on his knees: either 



as the appropriate attitude of prayer, or perhaps thrown 
down upon his knees by the stoning. Mrj arrays avroU 
ttjv apapriav tclvttjv— retain not this sin to them. Grotius 
renders these words, “ Weigh not this sin to them,” i.e. 
Punish them not according to their deserts; but to this 
Meyer and De Wette object that it is not the sin, but the 
punishment, which is weighed. Meyer renders them, u Fix 
not this sin upon them; ” a negative corresponding to the 
positive expression, Forgive them this sin. De Wette 
renders them, u Retain not this sin to them ”—let it not be 
treasured up against them; similar to our English version, 
“ Lay not this sin to their charge.” Flere again the words 
employed are similar to those uttered by Jesus on the cross, 
u Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do ” 
(Luke xxiii. 34). Doubtless this prayer of the dying Stephen 
was heard, and his request granted; to what extent, we 
cannot tell. But among those present there was one who 
was afterwards converted, who rose up in the martyr’s stead, 
another and a mightier Stephen; and though perhaps some¬ 
what fanciful, yet it is a pleasing thought to associate the 
conversion of Paul with the martyrdom of Stephen, and to 
say in the memorable words of St. Augustine, Si Stephanas 
non orasset , eeclesia Paulum non haheret. 'EiKOLpyOrj—he fell 
asleep. A description of his calm and peaceful death. 
Although murdered by violent hands, yet his end was as a 
quiet sleep—a translation rather than a death. Although 
this verb is occasionally used by heathen writers to express 
death, yet it is consecrated as a Christian term. Death is 
sleep to believers. (See John xi. 11; 1 Cor. xi. 30; 1 
Thess. iii. 13.) The body sleeps in the sure and certain 
hope of a blessed resurrection. Hence the Christian term 
for the place of burial, cemetery , is just the Greek term 
KOifiyTypiov^ a place for sleeping. 

Such was the death of Stephen. u He was,” as Eusebius 
observes, “ the first after our Lord, who at the time of 
ordination, as if ordained to this very purpose, was stoned to 
death by the murderers of the Lord. And thus he first 
received the crown, answering to his name (o-re^a^o?), of the 



victorious martyrs of Christ” (Hist. Heel. ii. 1). In reality, 
by his calm courage, his noble confession, above all, his 
forgiving spirit, he was the conqueror; whereas his enemies 
who put him to death, by their brutal rage, their contempt 
of justice, and their blind fury, were vanquished. The truth 
for which Stephen bled gained the victory over the violence 
which his enemies employed ; and in consequence of his 
death, the cause for which he suffered penetrated beyond 
Jerusalem to Samaria, Antioch, Europe, and the ends of the 

Opinions differ as to the time and place of Stephen’s 
martyrdom. With regard to the place of martyrdom, all 
that we are told in Scripture is, that it was outside of Jeru¬ 
salem. There are two traditions : the earlier is that Stephen 
was put to death at the north of Jerusalem, beyond what is 
now called the Damascus gate; and the more recent, which 
is the present tradition, is that the scene of martyrdom was 
to the east of Jerusalem, near the brook Kidron, outside 
of the gate which is now called, in honour of the martyr, 
St. Stephen’s gate. With regard to the time, ecclesiastical 
tradition. has fixed on the 26th of December of the year 
of our Lord’s crucifixion. But this is obviously erroneous, 
as it is impossible to compress all that occurred in the 
interval between the crucifixion and the death of Stephen 
within the short space of a few months. The most probable 
as well as the most common opinion, is that which fixes upon 
the year 36 as the date. Considering the previous extension 
of Christianity, the number of disciples in Jerusalem, and 
the gradual growth of hostility on the part of the Jewish 
people, it could hardly have been earlier. Wieseler fixes on 
the year 39, and Meyer on the year 33 or 34. 

It is disputed whether the death of Stephen was the result 
of a legal condemnation of the Sanhedrim, or an act of 
popular violence committed without legal authority. The 
question is not easily answered: as, on the one hand, there 
is no mention of a formal sentence, but rather an intimation 
of violence (vers. 57, 58); and, on the other hand, there was 
a regular trial before the Sanhedrim, and the execution was 



performed according to the regulations of the Mosaic law. 
Some (Biscoe, Ewald, De Wette, Humphry) suppose that 
there was a formal and regular sentence of death pronounced 
upon him by the Sanhedrim. The great objection to this 
view is, not that there is no mention of such a sentence, but 
that at this time the Sanhedrim had not power to put such a 
sentence into execution, the Romans having deprived them 
of the power of life and death. Hence the statement of the 
Jewish rulers to Pilate, u It is not lawful for us to put any 
man to death” (John xviii. 31); a statement the truth of 
which is presupposed by Josephus (Ant. xx. 9, 1), and 
directly affirmed by the Talmud. (See note on the San¬ 
hedrim.) To this Ewald replies, that the Sanhedrim might 
appeal to the permission granted them by Pilate in John 
xviii. 31; 1 but Pilate did not then give them permission to 
inflict the punishment of death, but merely told the Jews to 
judge Jesus according to their laws, which permitted them 
to inflict lesser punishments. Paul, indeed, says that he 
persecuted Christians even to the death, and that when they 
were put to death he gave his vote against them (Acts xxii. 
4, xxvi. 10); but here either the permission of the Roman 
government might have been obtained, or the zealots among 
the Jews may, as was often the case at this period, have 
taken the law into their own hands. 

Others (Calvin, Beza, Neander, Olshausen, Meyer, Lechler, 
Lange, Hackett, Alford, Wordsworth) suppose that the 
death of Stephen was an act of popular fury; or if a sen¬ 
tence of the Sanhedrim were pronounced (which is not 
evident), that they, in carrying it into effect, exceeded 
their legal power; and this seems to be the more probable 
opinion. In the excitement of the moment, Stephen was 
violently seized, dragged out of the city, and stoned to 
death. That the Jews attended to the regulations of the 
Mosaic law concerning stoning, is no objection to this view of 
the subject, as religious fanatics are often scrupulous about 
these matters. Similar instances of violence were at that 
time of frequent occurrence in Jewish history. Thus, on 

1 Ewald’s Geschichte , p. 195. 



one occasion in the life of our Lord, we are informed that 
the Jews took up stones to stone Him (John viii. 59) ; and 
in a somewhat similar manner to Stephen, James the Just 
was put to death. On that occasion, indeed, the high priest 
Ananus and the Sanhedrim passed formal sentence of death, 
and carried that sentence into execution. But for this illegal 
act Ananus was deposed from the priesthood by the Roman 
governor (Joseph. Ant. xx. 9. 1). Some suppose that the 
martyrdom of Stephen took place shortly after the deposition 
of Pontius Pilate, and before his successor had arrived, 
when there was no proper Roman authority to put down 
disturbances; in like manner as James the Just was put to 
death after the decease of Festus, and before the arrival of 
Albinus. At all events, it is well known that the Romans 
were accustomed to connive at these disturbances when they 
did not materially interfere with their interests. 

Baur considers the violent death of Stephen as a proof 
that the whole trial before the Sanhedrim is unhistorical. He 
thinks it incredible that such an act of violence should have 
been perpetrated before a court of justice ; and that there 
should have been such a contrast between the calm hearing 
of Stephen and the passionate termination of the trial. 1 But 
it is to be observed, that at the commencement of Stephen’s 
address his object was not apparent; he might even seem as 
if about to retract his opinions; he spoke reverently of 
Moses, of the law, of the temple; until near the close there 
was no allusion to Jesus; and it was not until then that he 
directly charged the Jewish rulers with being the betrayers 
and murderers of their Messiah. Then it was that their 
rage broke forth, and this must have greatly increased and 
become irrepressible when Stephen called aloud that he saw 
Jesus standing at the right hand of God. If Stephen were 
now allowed to escape unhurt, it would be a confession on 
the part of the Sanhedrim that they had been guilty of shed¬ 
ding the blood of their Messiah. According to their stand¬ 
point, they must find the charges of the witnesses proved; 
for either they were murderers, or Stephen was a blasphemer. 

1 Baur’s Apostel Paalus , vol. i. p. 61. 



And supposing that no regular sentence was pronounced, we 
are not to wonder that they should have permitted their 
prisoner to have been put to death by violence. Such acts 
of violence were then not unusual among the Jews : the 
principles of the sect of the Zealots were, that they should 
take the punishment of offenders into their own hand; and 
doubtless the Sanhedrim would be well pleased in this man¬ 
ner to get rid of so able and dreaded an opponent. Indeed, 
it is in itself not improbable that some of its members joined 
in the tumult. 



1 And Saul was consenting to his death. And there arose at that 
time a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem ; 
and they were all dispersed through the regions of Judea and Samaria, 
except the apostles. 2 And devout men buried Stephen, and made great 
mourning over him. 3 But Saul laid waste the church, entering in 
from house to house, and dragging away both men and women, com¬ 
mitted them to prison. 4 They therefore who were dispersed went 
about preaching the word. 5 And Philip having gone down to a city 
of Samaria, preached the Christ to them. 6 And the people with one 
accord gave heed to the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing 
the signs which he did. 7 For from many who had unclean spirits 
these came out, crying with a loud voice : and many paralyzed and lame 
were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. 9 But a cer¬ 
tain man, Simon by name, formerly practised sorcery hi that city, and 
astonished the nation of Samaria, saying that he was some great one : 
10 To whom they gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, 
This man is the power of God, which is called Great. 11 And to him 
they gave heed, because for a long time they had been astonished by his 
sorceries. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching concerning the 
kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both 
men and women. 13 And Simon also himself believed : and being 
baptized, he continued with Philip ; and beholding the miracles and signs 
which were done, he was astonished. 


Ver. 5. The article rrjv before ttoKlv occurs in A, B, n, 
but is considered an addition in order to designate the city 
Samaria. It is omitted in 0, D, E, H, and erased by 
Tischendorf, Meyer, and De Wette. Yer. 7. IIoWcov is 
only found in H, but is retained by Griesbach, Tischendorf, 
De Wette, and Meyer, as being the more probable reading. 
IIoWoij found in A, B, C, E, x, is supposed to have been 



a correction to correspond with the latter clause of the verse. 
'Efyip'xpvro is the reading of A, B, 0, D, E, K, and is pre¬ 
ferred by Tischendorf to iijypx eTO i the reading of H. Ver. 
10. H KoXovpbevrj before yeyaXy is attested by A, B, 0, D, 
E, x, and is inserted by all the recent critics. Yer. 12. Td 
before irepl is wanting in A, B, 0, D, E, X, and is accord¬ 
ingly omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf. Yer. 13. 
MeydXas is wanting in two uncial MSS., G, H, and is re¬ 
garded as an interpolation by Tischendorf and Meyer. 
Great variations also occur in the position of the words. 
The reading which Tischendorf adopts is, Swa/iei? /cal aygela 


Yer. 1 . %av\os $e rjv crvvevSoKcov rfj avcupecreL avrov — And 
Said was consenting to his death. This sentence has been 
considered by Tischendorf and Hackett as forming the con¬ 
clusion of the account of Stephen’s martyrdom ; but it rather 
appears to be introductory to the account of the general per¬ 
secution which now follows. ^vvevSo/cwv, not assenting , but 
consenting —taking an active part, joining with those who put 
Stephen to death. u When the blood of Thy martyr Stephen 
was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting to his death ” 
(Acts xxii. 20, where the same words are repeated by Paul 
himself). ’ Avaipeaei , a stronger term than death , perhaps 
murder. ’Eyevero Se iv eKelvy rg gyepa—and there arose on 
that day. Most critics (Lechler, Meyer, De Wette) take 
these words literally, and suppose that on the same day on 
which Stephen was slain, a general persecution against the 
church commenced. The martyrdom of Stephen was but 
the prelude to the onslaught upon the Christians. 1 The 
multitude, having tasted blood, became ferocious. There is 

1 This would especially be the case if, as some suppose, the death of 
Stephen involved a legal decision that Christianity was blasphemy, and 
therefore a capital offence : it could not then be professed without 
danger to life. This would follow even supposing the Sanhedrim, in 
passing sentence against Stephen, had exceeded its powers. 



nothing improbable in tliis view of the subject. However, 
as all that is here mentioned concerning the dispersion of 
the disciples could hardly have occurred on a single day, the 
words are probably to be taken indefinitely — u at that time” 
(English version). It is true that, in general, the phrase is 
limited to the particular day; but occasionally it admits of a 
wider signification (see John xiv. 20, xvi. 23, 26). AiceypLos 
Iliyas—a great 'persecution . This was an important crisis in 
the history of the church. The people of Israel, once favour¬ 
able, had now become decidedly hostile. The Pharisees, 
formerly neutral, were now united with the Sadducees in 
hatred to the Christians. The prudent counsels of Gamaliel 
no longer exerted a restraining influence; and the Roman 
government does not appear to have interfered for the pro¬ 
tection of the Christians. Perhaps, as has already been 
hinted, this persecution occurred during the vacancy of the 
Roman procuratorship, after the deposition of Pilate, and 
before the arrival of the new procurator Marullus; and 
that advantage of this was taken by the Jews. Ud^re? Se 
hiecnrapyaav—and they were all dispersed. It is improbable, 
and indeed at variance with the mention made soon after of 
the church at Jerusalem (ch. 'ix. 26), that all the Chris¬ 
tians, with the sole exception of the apostles, were dispersed. 
Accordingly, Bengel restricts m^re? to the teachers; and 
Baur, Zeller, He Wette, and Renan, to the Hellenistic Chris¬ 
tians. Baumgarten supposes that the dispersion refers to an 
assembly of Christians who were then met together. He 
thinks that the rabble, returning from the murder of Stephen, 
burst in upon that assembly, and dispersed it; and that the 
dispersion through the regions of Judea and Samaria was 
subsequent. u The assembly,” he observes, u were all scat¬ 
tered abroad, the apostles as well as the rest; but as for 
the dispersion into the regions of Judea and Samaria, there 
were many among the dispersed who were not driven to 
these quarters, and especially the apostles.” 1 He accordingly 
limits Travre^ bieo-'Trdpycrav to those disciples who were then 
assembled. But this limitation is not suggested by the text; 

1 Baumgarten’s Apostolic History , vol. i. pp. 169, 170. 


on the contrary, the words kcltcl ra? %co^a? tt}? ’IovSalas xal 
'Safiapelas are directly connected with hceaTrap^aav. It is 
best to understand iravre^ as a hyperbolical expression (Meyer, 
Lechler),—not that all Christians, with the sole exception of 
the apostles, but that very many of them, had to fly from 
Jerusalem: multi (Kuinoel). For a similar use of Travres, 
see Matt. iii. 5, Mark i. 33. FLXrjv tw v airocrro\wv—except 
the apostles. Whilst other Christians took their flight from 
Jerusalem, the apostles remained: they were preserved by 
the providence of God in the centre of the persecution. 
We might indeed have expected that they would have been 
the first to be attacked; but perhaps some portion of that 
veneration with which the people formerly regarded them 
(Acts v. 13) still remained: as yet, they did not venture 
to attack them. The apostles regarded Jerusalem as their 
post of duty; perhaps, as Meyer supposes, they held that 
the centre of the old theocracy was to be the centre of 
the new. Jerusalem was still to them the holy city, the 
future capital of the Messianic kingdom. According to 
an ancient tradition, the apostles were commanded by our 
Lord to remain for twelve years in Jerusalem. Thus Apol¬ 
lonius, who wrote in the second century, states that it was 
handed down by tradition, that our Saviour commanded 
His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem for twelve years 
(Eusebius, Hist. Heel. v. 18). And the same tradition is 
recorded in the apocryphal work entitled The Preaching of 
Peter : u The Lord said to His apostles, If any one there¬ 
fore of Israel repent, and through my name be willing to 
believe in God, his sins shall be forgiven him. After twelve 
years, go ye out into the world, lest any say, We have not 

Ver. 2. '’AvSpes evXafiels — devout men. It is disputed 
whether these “ devout men” were Christians, or Jews 
favourably disposed to Christianity, but who had not openly 
avowed themselves. Some (Heinrichs, Ewald, De Wette) 
suppose that they were Christians who showed this mark of 
respect to the first martyr of their faith. Others (Kuinoel, 
Meyer, Baumgarten, Olshausen, Lange, Stier, Lechler) sup- 

VOL. i. s 



pose that they were religious Jews secretly inclined to Chris¬ 
tianity, who had now the courage to declare their respect for 
the martyred Stephen; as Joseph of Arimathea and Nico- 
demus buried Christ. It is argued that is 

the phrase employed to denote devout Jews who were not 
Christians (Acts ii. 5). The only exception to this remark is 
Ananias, who, according to the probable reading of the text, 
is called dvr/p evXaftfc (Acts xxii. 12). Further, it is sug¬ 
gested that, in consequence of the outbreak of the persecu¬ 
tion, the Christians would have been hindered from burying 
Stephen ; and if not, that Luke would have designated 
them more distinctly by the word u disciples,” u believers,” 
or u brethren.” Upon the whole, the probability is, that 
the devout men here mentioned were friends and admirers 
of Stephen, who had not openly avowed themselves to be 
Christians. The simple statement of Luke concerning the 
burial of Stephen has been expanded into an elaborate legend. 
Four hundred years after this, Gamaliel appeared in a vision 
to Lucius, a presbyter of the church of Jerusalem, and 
informed him where the body of Stephen lay. The high 
priest had designed that the corpse should be devoured by 
beasts of prey ; but Gamaliel rescued it, and buried it at his 
own villa at Caphar Gamala, twenty miles from Jerusalem. 
All the apostles attended the funeral, and the mourning 
lasted forty days. Gamaliel himself, and Nicodemus, were 
afterwards buried in the same grave. The relics of Stephen, 
thus miraculously discovered, were brought to Jerusalem, and 
authenticated by the many miracles wrought by them among 
the people. They were afterwards buried at the supposed 
scene of his martyrdom, and a magnificent church was erected 
over them by the Empress Eudoxia in 460. (See Cony- 
beare and Howson ; Smith’s Dictionary , art. Stephen.) 

Yer. 3. ’ EXvfialvero — laid waste , made havoc of, raged 
like some furious beast of prey. Kara tovs olkov s' — from 
house to house. Saul was the first inquisitor. In this per¬ 
secution he was without doubt supported by the authority of 
the Sanhedrim : access was afforded him into the houses of 
private individuals, and the public prison was at his command. 



There are many references to this persecution in his speeches 
(Acts xxii. 4, 19, xxvi. 9-11). It was then that he caused 
the Christians to be scourged in the synagogues ; and, as it 
would appear, Stephen was not the only one who was put to 
death. And it was then also, what must have been to many 
worse than imprisonment and death, that he compelled them 
to blaspheme the holy name of Jesus. The dispersion of 
the disciples was promoted by his intolerant zeal; for, as 
he himself tells us, he persecuted them even unto strange 

Yer. 4. AirjXOov — went through; i.e ., they spread them¬ 
selves through the countries to which they had fled. Thus 
the death of Stephen and the persecution at Jerusalem served 
to the increase of the church. The church at Jerusalem was 
violently broken up, but the consequence was its extension 
in other quarters. Sanguis martyrum , semen Christianorum 
(Tertullian). At first the dispersed betook themselves to 
the regions of Judea and Samaria. But soon they spread 
farther : u Some of them travelled as far as Phenice, and 
Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word” (Acts xi. 19). 
Probably at this time Ananias went to Damascus, and some 
of the dispersed penetrated even to Rome ; for, among the 
Christians there, we find mention made of Andronicus and 
Junia, who were of note among the apostles, and who were 
also in Christ before Paul’s conversion (Rom. xvi. 7). 

Ver. 5. l\l7T7to<; Se KareXOciov — and Philip went down. 
This Philip must not be mistaken for Philip the apostle; a 
mistake made by Polycrates, and apparently adopted by 
Eusebius (Hist. Heel. iii. 31), though in another part of his 
history he correctly informs us that this Philip was one of 
those who had been ordained to the office of deacon (Hist. 
Heel. ii. 1). That he was Philip the deacon, is evident from 
several considerations. First, we are informed that the 
apostles remained behind at Jerusalem. Secondly, when 
tidings of the conversion of the Samaritans came to Jeru- 
salem, the Apostles John and Peter were sent to confer on 
the converts the gift of the Ploly Ghost, which would not 
have been the case had Philip been an apostle. And thirdly, 



at the conclusion of this narrative, we are informed that 
Philip came to Caesarea (Acts viii. 40); and we read that 
afterwards, when Paul came to Caesarea, he abode in the 
house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven 
(Acts xxi. 8). In the list of the seven deacons, Philip is 
mentioned second; and he now succeeds Stephen as a preacher 
of the gospel, and, like him, is the instrument of a further 
extension of the church. It is probable that the office of 
“ evangelist” (Eph. iv. 11), under the guidance of the Spirit, 
arose at this time from the course of events. Philip is 
expressly termed an a evangelistand others among the 
dispersed performed the functions of evangelists. 

Eh t?}? 'Zap.apeia^ — into a city of Samaria. Eras¬ 
mus, Beza, Calvin, Kuinoel, Wordsworth, suppose that 
Xafxapeia^ is the name of the city, and not of the country. 
The old city of Samaria was rebuilt by Herod the Great, 
and called Sebaste in honour of Augustus; but still, as we 
find from Josephus, it was occasionally called by its old 
name (Ant. xx. 6. 2). But if the city had been meant, 
either the definite article would have been placed before (see Critical Note), or Samaria would have been 
placed in apposition in the accusative. ’Xap.apeLas, then, is 
the name of the country; and therefore all opinions regarding 
the particular city to which Philip came are mere conjectures. 
Some (Grotius, Ewald, De Wette) conjecture that, although 
not expressly named, Samaria, the then recognised capital of 
the country, is meant; but it is improbable that this city 
would be so indefinitely mentioned as u a city of Samaria.” 
Others (Olshausen, Alford) think that the more considerable 
city of Shechem is meant, where our Lord Himself preached, 
and so prepared the way for the introduction of Christianity 
(John iv. 5). Tov Xpiarov — the Christ. That is, Philip 
preached to them Jesus as the Messiah promised to the Jews, 
and whom the Samaritans also expected (John iv. 25). 

Vers. 6-8. When Philip preached Jesus to the Samaritans 
as the Messiah, they gave him a favourable hearing; and 
this was in part occasioned by the miracles which he per¬ 
formed among them. If the city was Shechem, the previous 


preaching of Christ was another cause of their favourable 
reception of Philip. Different translations have been given 
of ver. 7. Kuinoel supposes TTveu/aara to be in the nomina¬ 
tive, and would translate the clause as in our version : “ For 
unclean spirits came out of many who were possessed of 
them.” If ttoWol, which has the preponderance of authori¬ 
ties, be the correct reading, the words are to be rendered, 
“For many of them who had unclean spirits, crying with a 
loud voice, came out.” Bengel observes that Luke in the 
Acts never employs the term Bai/aoma in speaking of those 
possessed, although in his Gospel he employs it oftener than 
any other evangelist; and from this he infers that the power 
of possession was feebler after the death of Christ. 1 

Ver. 9. ’ Avrjp Be tls ovoyari XLfuov—but a certain man , 
Simon by name. Most critics (Rosenmiiller, Kuinoel, De Wette, 
Gieseler, Neander, Lechler, Alford) suppose this Simon to 
be the same as Simon the magician mentioned by Josephus. 
The following is the account given us by Josephus : Felix 
being enamoured with Drusilla, the daughter of Herod 
Agrippa I., and the wife of Azizus king of Emesa, sent to 
her one of his friends, whose name was Simon. He was a 
Jew, a Cyprian by birth, and professed to be a magician. 
This man endeavoured to persuade her to forsake her hus¬ 
band Azizus, and to marry Felix, promising that she would 
ensure to herself great happiness if she did so ( Ant . xx. 7. 2). 
Justin Martyr gives a different account of Simon Magus: 
he says that he was a Samaritan by birth, a native of Gitta, 
or Gitton, in Samaria. This statement of Justin, however, 
is of no great authority, as he lived a hundred years after¬ 
wards ; and his account is full of those traditionary legends 
which afterwards arose concerning Simon. Alford ingeni- 
ously attempts to reconcile the statements of Josephus and 
Justin, by supposing that either Justin or Josephus may have 
confounded Gittim with Chitum—that is, Citium in Cyprus. 
A more considerable objection to the identification arises 
from the difference of time, as about twenty years intervened 

1 The consideration of the nature of demoniacal possession is deferred 
until in the course of the exposition we come to ch. xix. 13-16. 



between the encounter of Philip with Simon Magus and the 
employment of Simon by Felix; and it is highly improbable 
that the magician, especially after his wickedness was dis¬ 
closed by the Apostles Peter and John, would have success¬ 
fully carried on his knavery for so long a period. Besides, 
Simon was one of the most common of Jewish names; and 
at that period sorcerers were numerous throughout the East. 
The points of resemblance between these two persons—both 
called by the name of Simon, and both professing to be 
magicians—are too few and slight to serve as grounds of 
identification. We therefore regard this attempt to identify 
Simon Magus with Simon the magician mentioned by Jose¬ 
phus as a failure, arising from an unreasonable desire to 
identify persons mentioned in Scripture with historical cha¬ 
racters, to whom they bear only a remote resemblance; an 
exercise of the imagination which in sober criticism ought 
not to be fostered, but restrained. (For ecclesiastical tradi¬ 
tions concerning Simon, see note to ver. 24.) 

Mayevwv—used sorcery. Simon was one of those magi¬ 
cians or sorcerers who were then frequent in the East. It 
was a period of a great religious crisis; there was a general 
expectation throughout the East of the advent of some great 
deliverer: the Messianic notions of the Jews were spread 
abroad; and hence many impostors, taking advantage of this 
expectation, deceived the people. We have examples of 
them in Elymas the sorcerer (Acts xiii.) ; in Apollonius of 
Tyana in Cappadocia, a contemporary of the apostles; and 
in Alexander of Abonoteiclios in Pontus (Lucian). These 
men went about as sorcerers, and deceived the people with 
their tricks, perhaps by possessing a superior knowledge of 
the laws of nature, especially of chemistry. As astrologers, 
they pretended to read the fortunes of individuals in the 
heavenly bodies; and as magicians, they deceived the people 
by their magical arts, and thus obtained credit as if they 
were actually endowed with supernatural powers. 

Aeycov elvcLL nva eavrov yeyav — saying that he ivas some 
great one. Simon Magus professed to be some distinguished 
person, some famous prophet, a messenger sent from heaven 


endowed with supernatural powers. The opinion which the 
• people formed of him—and which, doubtless, he fostered, if 
he did not by his own assertions directly give rise to it— 
was, that he was the power of God, which is called Great. 
These pretensions are greatly enlarged by the traditions of 
the church. Justin Martyr tells us that Simon asserted 
that he w r as God, above all principality, power, and virtue. 
Irenseus says that he boasted that he appeared to the Sama¬ 
ritans as the Father, to the Jews as the Son, and to the 
Gentiles as the Holy Ghost (Aclv. Hcer. i. 23. 3). Accord¬ 
ing to Jerome, he said: u I am the Word of God, 1 am 
the Paraclete, I am the Almighty, I am all things of God ” 
(Jerome on Matt. xxiv. 5),—extravagant declarations, sup¬ 
posing an acquaintance w r ith the doctrines of Christianity 
which Simon Magus could not at that time have possessed. 

Ver. 10. iTpoael^ov — to whom they gave heed. The ex¬ 

pectation which was raised concerning the advent of some 
great deliverer, as well as the general want of faith in the 
religions of the Gentiles, had created in men’s minds a sus¬ 
ceptibility to religious impressions, a certain craving after 
the supernatural. Hence they were liable to be deluded by 
the pretensions of false prophets. u At that time,” observes 
Neander, u an indefinite longing after a new communication 
from heaven—an ominous restlessness in the minds of men, 
such as generally precedes great changes in the history of 
mankind—was diffused abroad; so this indistinct anxiety did 
not fail to lead astray and to deceive many who were not 
rightly prepared for it, while they adopted a false method of 
allaying it.” 1 ’Atto pu/cpov eco? yeyaXov—from little to great; 
i.e. both young and old. Ouro? ianv rj hvvapus rod Geov 
rj rcaXovyevT) pLeyaXy—this man is the power of God , which 
is called Great. Neander and Meyer suppose that the 
Samaritans here refer to the philosophical notions of the 
Alexandrian school concerning the Logos, and that they sup¬ 
posed Simon Magus to be an incarnation of the Logos—a 
power or emanation of God. But it is improbable that these 
philosophical notions were prevalent among so secluded a 
1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. pp. 57-60. 



people as the Samaritans. De Wette thinks that the Sama¬ 
ritans regarded Simon as an angel in human form, because 
angels were called by them u powers of God ” ( Swa/ieos ). 
Others suppose that they regarded him as the Messiah — u the 
highest power of God.” But most probably all that is meant 
was, that they looked upon him as a person endowed with 
supernatural powers; they regarded his magical arts as real 
miracles; and perhaps formed some indistinct notion that 
he was a being of supernatural origin. According to the 
tradition of the church, an altar was erected to Simon at 
Borne, where he was worshipped as a god. (See note to 
ver. 24.) 

Yer. 12. When Philip came and preached the kingdom of 
God—the Messianic kingdom—and Jesus as the Messiah ; 
and when he confirmed his preaching by real miracles, which 
not only cast the false miracles of Simon into the shade, 
but disclosed their falsehood, the Samaritans became con¬ 
verts, and were baptized. They were more disposed to 
believe on Jesus Christ than the Jews, because they do not 
seem, like the Jews, to have expected the Messiah as a 
temporal deliverer, but rather as a moral restorer. 

Yer. 13. 'O Se 'Zifiwv /cal ai/Tos eTTLarevae—and Simon 
also himself believed. Here we have a simple statement of a 
fact, that Simon himself believed as well as the Samaritans. 
Some suppose that Simon here merely acted the hypocrite: 
that what he did believe was not that Jesus was the Messiah, 
but that Philip was a greater magician than himself; and 
that he attached himself to Philip, in order either to hide the 
shame of his defeat, or to discover the secret of Philip’s 
miraculous powers (Grotius, Limborch, Kuinoel). Certainly 
his offer to purchase the Holy Ghost appears to justify this 
view of the subject. But perhaps he was for a time 
impressed: he felt the falsehood of his own pretences, and 
the reality of Philip’s powers. The idea that Jesus was 
the Messiah may have forcibly struck him; and thus, over¬ 
come by the power of truth, he made profession of his faith 
in Jesus, and was baptized. That these impressions were 
temporary, that his heart was unchanged, the result soon 



showed. ’ E^lararo—he was astonished. As Simon had 
astonished the Samaritans by his sorceries, so he in his turn 
was astonished by the miracles of Philip. It is the same 
word which had been used in vers. 9, 11 to express the 
impression which Simon’s sorceries made on the Samaritans ; 
a fact which is lost sight of in our English version by the 
word being there translated u bewitched,” whilst here it is 
more properly rendered u wondered.” 


The district of Samaria was the middle portion of Palestine. 
It was bounded by Galilee on the north, the Jordan on the 
east, Judea on the south, and the Mediterranean on the 
west. It included the possessions of the tribes of Ephraim, 
and that part of Manasseh which lay west of Jordan, and 
perhaps a small portion of the tribe of Issachar. u The 
country of Samaria,” observes Josephus, u lies between 
Judea and Galilee : it begins at a village that is in the great 
plain (Esdraelon), called Ginea, and ends at the toparchy 
of Acrabbene (in the lower part of the tribe of Ephraim).” 
(Bell. Jud. iii. 3. 4.) 

The Samaritans were originally colonists planted in the 
district by Shalmaneser, or, according to others, by Esar- 
haddon, the king of Assyria. “ The king of Assyria brought 
men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and 
from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in 
the cities of Samaria, instead of the children of Israel” 
(2 Kings xvii. 24). And Josephus says : u Shalmaneser 
removed the Israelites out of their country, and placed 
therein the nation of the Cutheans, who had formerly be¬ 
longed to the inner parts of Persia and Media, but were 
then called Samaritans by taking the name of the country 
to which they were removed” (Ant. x. 9. 7). “ They are 

called in the Hebrew tongue Cutheans, but in the Greek 
Samaritans” (Ant. ix. 14. 3). Some suppose that the Sa- 



maritans were purely of Gentile origin, and only mixed with 
those Jews who afterwards came among them as renegades. 
Others suppose that they are a mixed people, composed 
partly of the Israelites who remained after the Assyrian 
captivity, and partly of the colonists implanted. Whichever 
opinion is the more correct, it is probable that Gentile blood 
constituted the chief element of the nation ; and that the 
Israelites whom the Assyrians left, if there were any, were 
exceedingly few. 

The Samaritans, however, at an early period in their 
history, forsook their idolatrous practices, and embraced 
the Mosaic religion. On the return of the Jews under 
Ezra, they made proposals to unite with them in rebuild¬ 
ing the temple of Jerusalem; which proposals, however, 
the Jews rejected. Similar advances made to Nehemiah 
met with a similar refusal. Irritated at this treatment, they 
erected a temple for themselves upon Mount Gerizim, and 
consecrated the renegade Manasseh, the son of the high 
priest Joiada, as their first priest (Neh. xiii. 28), and thus 
set up a rival worship to that at Jerusalem. In the division 
of the empire of Alexander, Samaria along with Judea fell 
to the lot of the Syrian kings. During the severe persecu¬ 
tions of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes, the Samaritans 
joined their adversaries, and gained the favour of the Syrian 
king by dedicating their temple on Mount Gerizim to Jupiter. 
They were at length conquered by John Hyrcanus, who 
destroyed their temple, and incorporated them into the 
Jewish kingdom. On the dissolution of this kingdom by 
the deposition of Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, 
they passed over to the Romans, and became part of the 
province of Syria. Although bitter enemies to the Jews, 
yet they were involved with them in the same calamities 
during the Jewish war; Josephus informs us that Cerealis, 
one of Vespasian’s generals, slew 11,600 Samaritans at 
Mount Gerizim {Bell. Jud. iii. 7. 32). After this there is 
little mention of them as a nation, until the reign of Zeno 
toward the end of the fifth century, when they were nearly 
extirpated in consequence of an outrage committed by them 



on the Christians at Shechem. They remained in obscurity 
until the sixteenth century, when the correspondence between 
them and the illustrious Scaliger again brought them into 

The Jews and the Samaritans entertained the most violent 
hatred toward each other. Although both professing the 
Mosaic religion, and living under the same government, they 
regarded each other as enemies. We find in the Gospels 
that the Samaritans prevented Jesus and His disciples pass¬ 
ing through their country, because they were going to keep 
the passover at Jerusalem. Josephus informs us that they 
waylaid and robbed the pilgrims from Galilee to Jerusalem 
(Ant. xx. 6. 1); and that once they designedly polluted the 
temple, by scattering dead men’s bones in the cloisters (Ant. 
xviii. 2. 2). When the Jews were in prosperity, the Sama¬ 
ritans professed themselves to be Jews ; but when they were 
in adversity, they joined their enemies, and asserted their 
Gentile origin (Ant. ix. 14. 3). The Jews, on the other 
hand, repaid this enmity of the Samaritans with interest. 
u To be a Samaritan and to have a devil ” was the strongest 
expression of reproach which they could pronounce. They 
would have no dealings with them (John iv. 9), and re¬ 
garded them as aliens. u There are two manner of nations,” 
says the wise son of Sirach, u whom my heart abhorreth, 
and the third is no nation : they that sit on the mountain of 
Samaria, and they that dwell among the Philistines ; and 
the foolish people that dwell in Shechem” (Ecclus. 1. 25, 26). 
The accumulated mutual wrongs of ages embittered the re¬ 
sentment of these two nations; the foreign origin of the 
Samaritans caused them to be despised by the Jews; and 
especially the erection of a temple on Mount Gerizim as the 
rival to that on Mount Zion, and the destruction of the 
Samaritan temple by John Hyrcanus, must have perpetuated 
their hatred. 

The Samaritans from the time of Manasseh, their first 
high priest, received the law of Moses in all its strictness 
and purity. They rejected the traditions of the elders; but 
along with them they seem also to have rejected the other 


writings of the Old Testament. It is a mistake to suppose 
that their religion was a mixture of heathen superstition and 
Judaism ; it was the rigid observance of the Mosaic law. 
Like the Jews, they expected the coming of the Messiah : 
u I know,” said the woman of Samaria, “ that Messias 
cometh, w T ho is called Christ;” but they do not appear, like 
them, to have entertained the notion of a temporal Messiah. 
Besides, they do not seem to have been so intolerant and 
bigoted, and to have entertained that contempt for other 
nations which the Jews displayed, and which was so great an 
obstacle to their reception of that religion which knew no 
difference between Jew and Gentile. Thus the Samaritans 
were in a measure prepared for the reception of the gospel. 
The Jewish prejudices against the Christian scheme did not 
exist among them; and as worshippers of the true God, and 
believers in Moses, there were points of connection between 
them and Christianity which did not exist in the case of the 
idolatrous Gentiles. The seed also was already sown among 
them by the short residence of Christ Himself in their 
country. And thus it happened that the gospel had great 
success among them, and multitudes of them embraced the 
Christian faith. 

The Samaritans are still settled at Shechem, or, as it is now 
called, Nablous, a corruption of the Greek name Neapolis. 
This interesting people are greatly reduced in number: ac¬ 
cording to Winer, there are not more than thirty families, 
and according to Hessey about two hundred persons. They 
still regard Mount Gerizim as the holy mount set apart by 
Moses, their great lawgiver, to be the peculiar spot for the 
worship of Jehovah, and to it they direct their prayers. We 
are informed that they are strict observers of the Sabbath 
and the Jewish festivals; that they celebrate the passover 
with minute attention to the enactments of the Mosaic law; 
that they carefully attend to the practices of circumcision 
and holy washings ; that they are firm believers in the unity 
and spirituality of God; that they permit no image of 
Jehovah to be made; that they live in the expectation of 
the Messiah ; and that they are believers in the existence of 



angels and of a future state. They still entertain feelings 
of enmity toward the Jews, and marriages with them are 
forbidden. Whilst they assert that they are Israelites, the 
descendants of Joseph, they indignantly deny that they are 
Jews. (See Winer’s Worterbuch , Gieseler’s Church History , 
Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine , and an article on the Samari¬ 
tans by Hessey in Smith’s Dictionary .) 



Acts viii. 14-25. 

14 But when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had re¬ 
ceived the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John: 15 Who, 
having come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy 
Ghost. 16 For as yet He was fallen upon none of them : only they were 
baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on 
them, and they received the Holy Ghost. 18 But when Simon saw that, 
through the imposition of the hands of the apostles, the Spirit was given, 
he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on 
whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. 20 But Peter 
said to him, Thy silver perish with thee, because thou didst think to 
purchase the gift of God with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor 
lot in this matter : for thy heart is not right before God. 22 Repent 
therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the 
thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I see that thou 
art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. 24 Then 
Simon answered, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these 
things which ye have spoken come upon me. 

25 Then they, after they had testified and spoken the word of the 
Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and evangelized many villages of the 


Yer. 18. Instead of Oeaad/ievo^ , found in G, H, Griesbach, 
Tiscliendorf, and Lachmann read IScov, found in A, B, C, 
D, E, N. Tiscliendorf omits to dytov after ITved/xa , although 
attested by A, C, D, E, and wanting only in B and X. 
Yer. 22. Tiscliendorf and Lachmann read Kvptov, found in 
A, B, 0, D, E, N, instead of ©eon, found in G and H. Yer. 
25. The imperfects virearpecfiov, evrjyyeXl^ovTOj are better 
attested than the aorists virearpe^av, evrjyyeXlaavTOj and 
are preferred by Tiscliendorf, Lachmann, and Bornemann. 




Ver. 14. ’Afcovaavres 8e ol iv 'lepocroXvfioLS anroaroXoi — 
And the apostles in Jerusalem having heard. The apostles 
here act as a body, as they did formerly at the election of 
the seven (Acts vi. 2). 'On SeSefcrac rj 'Zaydpeta — that 
Samaria had received the word of God. Samaria here is the 
name of the country, and not of the city. (See note to ver. 
5.) The success of the gospel in a particular city of Samaria 
was regarded as a proof or pledge that the Samaritans in 
general had embraced the gospel: it showed that there was 
nothing either in the nature of the gospel or in the nation of 
the Samaritans which formed an obstacle to their conversion. 
This was an important step in advance. Hitherto Chris¬ 
tianity had been limited to those who were pure Jews; 
Christians before this were merely a Jewish sect; but now, 
in the reception of the gospel by the Samaritans, it overpassed 
the limits of Judaism. AnrecrreCkav 7rpo? avrovs Ilerpov Kal 
'IcoavvTjv — they sent to them Peter and John. Two were sent, 
as formerly Jesus sent the apostles and the seventy, two by 
two. So Paul and Barnabas went together to preach the 
gospel among the Gentiles; and after their separation, Paul 
chose Silas, and Barnabas took Mark. This is the last time 
that John is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. 

Different opinions have been entertained regarding the 
object of the mission of Peter and John to Samaria. 
Neander supposes that the conversion of the Samaritans was 
regarded with suspicion by the church at Jerusalem : partly 
because the event was itself unexpected, and regarded as 
improbable; and partly by reason of the national distrust felt 
toward the Samaritans. He also supposes that the Hebrew 
Christians might be jealous of Philip, because he was a 
Hellenist. 1 Meyer and De Wette, on the other hand, think 
that the purpose of their mission was what they actually did 
after their arrival,—namely, to bestow upon the Samaritan 
converts the gift of the Holy Ghost. Perhaps the purpose 
was general—to examine into the state of the church in 
1 Neander’s Planting , vol. ii. p. 80, Bohn’s edition. 



Samaria, to supply wliat was wanting, to extend the hand of 
fellowship to the newly converted, and to unite them and the 
Jewish Christians into one church of Christ; in like manner 
as, when at a later time tidings of the conversion of the 
Gentiles at Antioch came to the church at Jerusalem, Bar¬ 
nabas was sent to visit the Christians in that city (Acts 
xi. 22). 

Vers. 15, 16. "Ottws \dfiwcn Tlvexj/ia aytov—that they 
might receive the Holy Ghost. By the Holy Ghost here is 
not to he understood the ordinary or sanctifying influences 
of the Spirit. The Samaritans, in the act of believing the 
gospel, received the Holy Ghost in this sense. Besides, the 
reception of the Holy Ghost here was accompanied by 
certain outward manifestations, for it is said that Simon 
saw that the Holy Ghost was given ; nor would Simon 
have any desire to purchase the sanctifying influences of 
the Spirit. The miraculous influences of the Spirit, which 
were manifested by speaking with tongues and propliesyings, 
are here meant. As Calvin remarks, u Luke speaks not in 
this place of the common grace of the Spirit, whereby God 
regenerates us that we may be His children, but of those 
singular gifts wherewith God would have certain endowed 
at the beginning of the gospel to beautify the kingdom of 

But the question arises, Why could not Philip bestow the 
Holy Ghost ? Did the reason of this inability arise from 
Philip, or from the Samaritans % Neander supposes that the 
defect lay with the Samaritan converts. He thinks that 
they were only half Christians : that like as they formerly 
believed Simon on account of his magical arts, so they now 
believed Philip on account of his miracles ; but that there 
was no real internal reception of the gospel. The Christ 
whom Philip preached to them was merely the outward 
object of their faith, but had not yet passed into their hearts; 
they had not yet attained to the consciousness of a vital 
union with Him, or of a personal divine life; in short, they 
had not yet experienced the indwelling of the Spirit. When 
Peter and John came, this state of things was rectified ; by 


tlieir preaching and prayers, the work of Philip was carried 
on ; and the Samaritans were rendered susceptible for the 
reception of the Holy Ghost. 1 There is, however, nothing 
in the context to justify this view of the matter; no mention 
of any defect in the faith of the Samaritans. The common 
opinion appears to be the correct one,—namely, that Philip 
could not bestow the Holy Ghost, because he was not an 
apostle. This, though not expressly stated, yet seems im¬ 
plied in the narrative. So Chrysostom and Epiplianius 
among the Fathers; and Grotius, Lightfoot, De Wette, 
Baumgarten, Meyer, Olshausen, and Wordsworth among 
the moderns. 

But another question occurs : Was the bestowal of the 
Holy Ghost the prerogative of the apostles, so that they 
only could confer this gift ? This was the opinion of the 
Fathers. u Philip,” observes Epiplianius, “ being a deacon, 
had not authority to give the Holy Ghost by the imposition 
of hands.” So also the Apostle Paul bestowed the Holy 
Ghost on his converts (Acts xix. 6). On the other hand, 
it is objected that Ananias, who was not an apostle, con¬ 
ferred the Holy Ghost on Paul by the imposition of hands 
(Acts ix. 17). But this case was peculiar, as Ananias 
was directed to do so by special revelation ; and the inde¬ 
pendence of Paul, as himself an apostle, required that he 
should not be indebted for the Holy Ghost to the other 
apostles. Some (Meyer, Baumgarten) suppose that the 
reason was, not because the bestowal of the Holy Ghost was 
an apostolic prerogative, but on account of the great import¬ 
ance of the matter—the reception of the Samaritans into the 
church of Christ. It was necessary that a step in advance, 
so important as the progress of Christianity beyond the terri¬ 
tories of Judea into Samaria, should not be completed without 
the direct co-operation of the apostles; whereas in ordinary 
cases the Holy Ghost was bestowed by others besides the 
apostles. 2 The reason here given, if not entirely satisfactory, 
is certainly ingenious. 

1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 60, and vol. ii. p. 81, Bolin’s edition. 

2 Meyer’s Apostelgescliichte , p. 186. 

VOL. I. T 



Ver. 17. Tore errerlOeaav r a<? yelpas err avrovs—Then 
they laid their ha?ids on them. Concerning the ceremony of 
imposition of hands, see note to Acts vi. 6. Kal e\ay/3avov 
JTvev/ia ayiov—and they received the Holy Ghost. They 
were endowed with the miraculous influences of the Spirit. 
Although these miraculous influences had been displayed 
among them by Philip, yet they had not until now been com¬ 
municated to themselves. As Neander remarks : u Manifesta¬ 
tions now followed similar to those on the day of Pentecost; 
and the believers were thus recognised and attested to be a 
Christian church, standing in an equal rank with the first 
church at Jerusalem.” 1 

Ver. 18. ’IBoov Be 6 Xlycov — And when Simon saw that 
through the imposition of the hands of the apostles the Holy 
Ghost ivas given. Simon saw it: the effects of the com¬ 
munication therefore were visible, probably in the gestures 
and inspired utterances of the recipients. It has been gene¬ 
rally affirmed that Simon himself did not receive the Holy 
Ghost, because his moral character rendered him unsus¬ 
ceptible. But it does not decidedly appear that the miracu¬ 
lous influences of the Spirit were limited to those who had 
already received His ordinary influences. Still, however, as 
it is said that Simon merely saw that the Holy Ghost was 
given, it follows that he was a mere spectator, and not a 
personal recipient. Meyer supposes that his impatient covet¬ 
ousness did not permit him to wait until he himself had an 
experience similar to the other believers : for the power of 
the apostolic prayer would have embraced even him, and 
filled him with the Holy Ghost; and that before his turn 
came to receive the imposition of hands, he made the nefa¬ 
rious proposal to purchase the Holy Ghost. 2 It is also to be 
observed, that although Simon had seen the miracles per¬ 
formed by Philip, yet this was the first time he had seen mira¬ 
culous influences communicated from one person to another: 
his wonder must have been greatly increased when he saw the 
Samaritan converts themselves filled with the Holy Ghost. 

1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 62. 

2 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 187. 



npocn'iveyrcev avrot^ ^pyfiara — he offered them money. 
Simon supposed that the apostles might bestow the power of 
communicating the Holy Ghost which they possessed upon 
others; and being utterly incapable of any spiritual discern¬ 
ment, he had the baseness and wickedness to offer them 
money, provided they would confer this power upon him. He 
was evidently a perfect stranger to the internal influences 
of the Spirit, and was only astonished by the external mani¬ 
festations ; and hence he perhaps regarded the apostles as 
magicians superior both to Philip and himself. The motive 
of his proposal was evidently a desire to increase his magical 
arts. He regarded the communication of the Spirit as alto¬ 
gether independent of moral qualifications, susceptible of 
being transferred and exercised according to pleasure. He 
thus wished to exalt himself in the world as a superior 
thaumaturgus, and to bewitch men more effectually than he 
formerly did by his sorcery (Lechler). 

Ver. 20. To dpyvpiov crov avv aol eir\ ec? cnrwkeiav—Thy 
silver perish with thee. ’ Apyvpiov, silver; whereas the word 
'Xpr/p.ara, monies , is used in the other clause of the verse and 
in ver. 18. Literally, u Thy silver with thee be unto destruc¬ 
tion.” Yarious attempts have been made to explain away 
the seeming imprecation of Peter, as if it were contrary to 
the spirit of the gospel. Some suppose that it is merely a 
strong admonition ; and that Peter, so far from cursing 
Simon, exhorts him to repentance and amendment of life. 
Others think that it is a prediction of what would be the 
fate of Simon if he did not repent. But the words are evi¬ 
dently an imprecation, to which, doubtless, Peter was divinely 
moved. Luther renders them in these strong terms : Dass 
du verdammet werdest mit deinem Gelde. The imprecation, 
however, is modified by the subsequent exhortation to repent¬ 
ance. Simon was not absolutely doomed to destruction; he 
might avoid the impending danger by timely reformation. 

Ver. 21. ’Ev tw \o<yw toutco — in this matter; literally, 
u in this word.” Some (Grotius, Neander, Olshausen) sup¬ 
pose that the gospel is intended; that Peter here affirms 
that Simon had neither part nor lot in the gospel, and con- 



sequently in none of its privileges. But this sense is here 
inappropriate, as there is in the context no mention of the 
gospel. Lange, still adhering to the literal meaning of the 
term A 070 ?, supposes that the inspired utterances of those 
who had received the Holy Ghost are meant: “ in this 
word” — this speaking with tongues . 1 The term Xoyo? is 
sometimes employed for the matter spoken of, the subject of 
discourse, as in Luke i. 4, Acts xv. 6 : hence some (Lechler, 
Meyer, De Wette) translate the phrase u in this matter,” or 
more exactly, u in this matter about which the discourse 
is;” that is, in the gift of the Holy Ghost: and this seems 
to be the correct interpretation. Peter here, then, indignantly 
repudiates the idea that Simon had any concern whatever 
either in receiving or in communicating the Holy Ghost. . 

Ver. 22. Kal rod Kvpiov — and pray the Lord. 

The Lord here is evidently Christ. If Kvpiov be the correct 
reading, this is one of those many scriptural proofs that it 
was the custom of the apostolic church to address their 
prayers to Christ. El apa d^eOyaerat — if perhaps the 
thought of thy heart may he forgiven thee. Here evidently 
a doubt as to Simon obtaining forgiveness is expressed. 
Meyer supposes that the doubt refers to God’s forgiveness; 
that Simon’s sin was so heinous, that it was doubtful, even 
although he did repent, whether God would forgive him. 
Some (Hackett, Alford) suppose that Peter here expresses 
his doubts whether Simon, in desiring to purchase the Holy 
Ghost, may not have committed the unpardonable sin. Others 
(De Wette, Bengel, Kuincel) refer the doubt to Simon’s 
repentance. Simon was so far gone in sin, so sunk in de¬ 
pravity, that his repentance was extremely doubtful. And 
it is the blessed doctrine of the gospel, that whoever repents, 
be his sins what they may, will be forgiven. The sin against 
the Holy Ghost excludes the idea of repentance. Peter here, 
then, expresses no doubts of God’s forgiveness, no limitation 
of His mercy; but the doubt refers to Simon’s repentance, 
which was hardly to be expected. 

Ver. 23. Eh x°^ v ' TriK P—? n the gall of bitterness. 

1 Lange’s Apostolisclies Zeitcdter , vol. ii. p. 107. 



The preposition eh, into, occasions difficulty in the transla¬ 
tion of this verse. Some (Lechler, Bengel) make it the sign 
of the predicate : u I perceive that thou art the gall of bitter¬ 
ness.” A similar use of eh occurs elsewhere in the New 
Testament. (See Matt. xix. 5 ; 1 Cor. vi. 16 ; 2 Cor. vi. 18 ; 
Winer’s Grammar , p. 196, English translation.) This mean¬ 
ing, however, is harsh, when applied to the second clause of 
the sentence — u the bond of iniquity.” Others (Stier, Lange) 
suppose that the words are a prophetic description of what 
would be Simon’s character and conduct if he did not repent: 
u I perceive that thou wilt yet fall into the gall of bitter¬ 
ness, and into the bond of iniquity.” Others suppose that 
eh stands for ev ,—a solution never to be resorted to unless 
where absolutely necessary. The true force of eh seems 
to be to represent a falling into a certain state, and a con¬ 
tinuance in it: “I perceive that thou hast fallen into sin, 
and art now in it.” So Olshausen, Meyer, De Wette, 
Alford. Xo\yv irucpla^—gall of bitterness. Similar to ev 
X°^V KaL TciKpici, Deut. xxix. 18. So also a somewhat similar 
expression is used by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews 
when he speaks of the u root of bitterness” (Heb. xii. 15). 
Gall here signifies u poison,” as, according to the opinion 
of the ancients, the poison of serpents resided in their gall. 
(Job xx. 14; Rom. iii. 13). The expression denotes extreme 
depravity—the corrupting and poisoning influences of sin. 
Some suppose that there is here a Hebraism for u bitter 
gall; ” but such a supposition is unnecessary, and weakens 
the expression, ^vvbeayov aScfclas—bond of iniquity. The 
same words occur, in a similar sense, in Isa. lviii. 6, aWa 
\ve Trdvra crvvSecrgov abaclas, u but loose every bond of 
iniquity.” The meaning is, that Simon was wholly enchained 
by sin—confirmed in the habit of sin. Iniquity is here re¬ 
presented as a chain which bound him. Others (Kuinoel, 
Ewald, Lechler, Stier) take avvSeayos in the sense of bundle, 
and suppose that Peter means that Simon’s character was, as 
it were, a bundle, whose separate parts are iniquity. But 
this is an unusual meaning of the term ; and besides, we 
would have expected dhucias to have been in the plural. 



It has often been observed that Simon Magus is much 
more gently dealt with than Ananias, for a crime of similar 
turpitude. Both were guilty of sinning against the Holy 
Ghost; Ananias of an attempt to deceive Him, and Simon 
of a wish to purchase His gifts with money. But whereas 
Ananias without a moment’s respite fell down dead at the 
apostle’s feet; Peter, whilst he severely rebukes Simon, does 
not exclude him from the hope of forgiveness. But the cases 
are entirely dissimilar : Ananias was the greater criminal of 
the two. Simon sinned in comparative ignorance—he him¬ 
self had not received the Holy Ghost, and he was a stranger 
to the spiritual nature of religion—he was so deceived by his 
own magical arts, that he entertained the monstrous opinion 
that he could purchase the Holy Ghost ; whereas Ananias 
sinned in knowledge — he was a member of the Christian 
church, and most probably a partaker of the extraordinary 
influences of the Spirit. Simon sinned openly—there was 
no disguise, no concealment, about his offer; whereas false¬ 
hood constituted the essence of the sin of Ananias. Although 
it is said that Simon believed Philip, yet he can hardly be 
called a Christian at all — he was an outsider; whereas 
Ananias belonged to the Christian community. The judg¬ 
ment inflicted upon Ananias was necessary to preserve the 
purity of the church at its commencement; whereas there 
was no such necessity in the case of Simon. 

Yer. 24. In this verse there is nothing to intimate that 
Simon repented of his wickedness, but rather the reverse. 
Instead of praying for himself, he requests the apostles to 
pray for him. Instead of deploring Ids wickedness, he is 
afraid of the punishment which it might bring upon him. 
u He confesses his fear of punishment, not horror of guilt” 
(Bengel). There is nothing here, then, to contradict the 
traditions of the church, that Simon afterwards became a 
violent opponent of Christianity; and although these tradi¬ 
tions are doubtless mythical, yet it is probable that they 
sprang from some historical fact. 

Scripture is silent regarding the subsequent history of 
Simon; but he occupies a prominent place in ecclesiastical 



tradition. He is there represented as a kind of hero among 
heretics—the impersonation of the anti-Christian principle; 
and a far larger space in the legends of the church is allotted 
to him than we would have expected from the short notice of 
him in the Acts. Irenseus calls him magister et progenitor 
omnium hcereticorum, a the master and progenitor of all 
heretics” {Adv. Hair. i. 27). Eusebius says that he took 
the lead in all heresy {Heel. Hist. ii. 13) ; and the Fathers 
in general regarded him as the founder of Gnosticism. 
According to Justin Martyr, he went to Home accompanied 
by a female named Helena, formerly a prostitute of Tyre, 
whom he called his evvoia , or divine intelligence. Here he 
was reverenced as a god, and had a statue erected to his 
honour on an island in the Tiber, between the two bridges, 
with the inscription “ Simoni Deo Sancti” (Justin, Apol. i. 26; 
Euseb. Hist. Heel. ii. 13). According to Eusebius, he again 
in the reign of Claudius Csesar encountered Peter at Pome, 
who confounded him by his prayers and miracles {Hist. Heel. 
ii. 14). His death is variously described. According to 
Hippolytus, he was buried alive at his own request, saying 
that he would rise again on the third day {Adv. Hair. vi. 20). 
According to Arnobius, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Constitut. 
Apost. (ii. 14, vi. 9), he met his death at Pome in an en¬ 
counter with Peter: he raised himself in the air by the aid 
of evil spirits; but in answer to the prayers of Peter, he fell 
and broke his bones, and out of vexation committed suicide. 

The remark of Justin Martyr, that Simon had a statue 
erected to his honour at Pome on an island in the Tiber, with 
the inscription u Simoni Deo Sancto,” has been explained 
in a very remarkable manner. In the year 1574 a stone was 
dug up at the spot described by Justin, with the inscription 
u Semoni Sanco Deo Fidio Sacrum,”—an inscription which 
applies to the Sabine god Semo-Sancus—the Sabine Her¬ 
cules. Hence, as it is in itself improbable that Simon, how¬ 
ever successful as a magician, would ever be admitted among 
th q deos Romanos; and also equally improbable that Justin 
Martyr, in an apology written at Pome, would state what he 
did not see; taking this in connection with the discovery of 


the statue at the very place described, it follows as a reason¬ 
able inference, that Justin must have confounded the god 
Semo-Sancus with Simon Magus. 1 

It is impossible to say what amount of truth lies at the 
root of these legends : they can hardly be mere unfounded 
fables. It is not unlikely that Simon, being repelled by Peter, 
proceeded from bad to worse ; that he continued his magical 
arts, and became a violent opponent of Christianity. There 
was a sect which continued until the time of Origen, known 
by the name of the Simonians, who claimed Simon Magus as 
their founder. Neander informs us that they accommodated 
themselves sometimes to paganism, sometimes to Judaism, or 
to the religious opinions of the Samaritans, and sometimes to 
Christianity: they appear sometimes to have been rigid ascetics, 
and at other times wild scoffers of all moral law. Simon 
Magus was their Christ. It was one of the numerous gnostic 
sects by whom Christianity was so dreadfully corrupted and 
distorted. We cannot suppose that Simon himself was the 
founder of the sect, but rather that it sprung up at a later 
period. Others, again, think that Simon Magus, and Simon 
the founder of the sect of the Simonians, were different per¬ 
sons, and that they were by mistake confounded together. 2 

Yer. 25. f Tirearpe^ov , evrj^yeXt^ovTo — were returning , were 
preaching the gospel. The imperfects of the verbs, according 
to the best attested reading, being employed instead of the 
aorists, imply that the apostles devoted some time to the 
publication of the gospel. They did not go directly to Jeru¬ 
salem, but employed themselves in the villages of Samaria 
preaching the gospel. It has been well observed, that the 
same John who once wished fire to come down from heaven 
to consume the Samaritans, now preached to them the gospel 

1 Neander’s Church History , vol. ii. p. 123, note, Bolm’s edition ; 
Gieseler’s Ecclesiastical History , vol. i. p. 49, Clark’s translation ; 
Renan’s Les Apotres , ch. xv. 

2 For an account of the Simonians, see Neander’s Church History, 
vol. ii. pp. 122, 123 ; Gieseler’s Ecclesiastical History , vol. i. pp. 49, 
50; and Moslieim’s Church History , vol. i. pp. 140-143, Maclaine’s 



of peace. He had since that time learned much in the school 
of Christ: then he knew not what spirit he was of, but now 
he was actuated by the Holy Spirit. It was a different kind 
of fire which he now prayed might descend from heaven 
upon the Samaritans—the fire of the Holy Ghost. 



26 But an angel of the Lord spake to Philip, saying, Arise, and go 
toward the south, to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, 
which is desert. 27 And he arose and went: and, behold, an Ethiopian, 
a eunuch and a distinguished officer of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, 
who was over all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot, and read the prophet 
Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, Go near, and join thyself 
to this chariot. 80 And Philip having run up, heard him read the 
prophet Isaiah, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest ? 
31 And he said, How can I, except some man shall guide me ? And 
he desired Philip to come up and sit with him. 82 The passage of 
Scripture which he read was this : He was led as a sheep to the 
slaughter ; and as a lamb dumb before its shearer, so He opens not His 
mouth : 33 In His humiliation His judgment was taken away: and who 
shall declare His generation? because His life is taken from the earth. 
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom 
speaks the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then 
Philip, opening his mouth, and beginning from this scripture, preached 
to him Jesus. 36 And as they went along the road, they came to a 
certain water : and the eunuch said, Behold, here is water ; what hinders 
me to be baptized? 37, 38 And he commanded the chariot to halt: 
and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch ; 
and he baptized him. 39 And when they were come out of the water, 
the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no 
more : for he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at 
Azotus: and journeying on, he evangelized all the cities, till he came to 


Ver. 37. This verse, Elire Se 6 IXittttos' El Tria-reveis 
oXtjs tt)$ tcaphlas, e^eanv. 'ATroKpiOels Se elire' Iliarevw top 
vlbv rod Oeov elvcu top Irjcrovp Xpicrrop, is contained in 




one uncial ms., E, whilst it is wanting in A, B, C, G, H, K : 
there is a hiatus in D. It is accordingly rejected by our best 
biblical critics. Bornemann alone hesitates. The interpola¬ 
tion, if it be such, however, is very old, being found in the 
writings of Irenseus ( Adv. Hcer. iii. 8), and in the Syriac, 
Yulgate, and Armenian versions. It is supposed to have 
been added from dogmatic reasons, because a confession of 

faith by the eunuch w x as judged to be necessary 

Derore ms 


Vei\ 26. L4 776 X 09 Kvplov—an angel of the Lord; not, as 
in our version, u the angel of the Lord,”—an expression which 
does not occur in the Acts. ’ EXdXycrev 77009 Q'lkvmrov —- 
spoke to Philip. Olshausen supposes that merely an inter¬ 
nal intimation is meant, and that the phrase is similar to 
u the Spirit of the Lord ” in ver. 29. But the difference 
of expression rather intimates that they are dissimilar. 
Others (Heinrichs, Kuincel) suppose that the angel appeared 
to Philip in a dream; and for this they appeal to the word 
avdcTTrjOi, u arise.” But this w r ord in itself does not suggest 
the idea of arising from sleep, but is merely a call to action; 
and in the context there is no intimation of a vision or 
dream. Luke, then, here relates the actual appearance of an 
angel to Philip. So Meyer, De Wette, Lechler. AvdarijOc 
real 7 ropevov Kara pear} p(3 plan . . . Td^av — Arise, and. go 
toward the south , to the ivay that goes down from Jerusalem to 
Gaza. Zeller infers from these words that Philip returned 
with the apostles to Jerusalem, and that he w’ent from that 
city to Gaza . 1 But such an opinion is unnecessary and im¬ 
probable. It w r as necessary to go southward from Samaria, 
in order to join the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. The 
mention of the return of Peter and John to Jerusalem seems 
to intimate that Philip did not return, but remained behind. 

Ta^av — Gaza. This city is situated about two miles from 
the Mediterranean, at the southern extremity of Palestine, 

1 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 175. 



distant about sixty miles from Jerusalem to the south-west. 
It is one of the oldest cities in the world, being mentioned 
in Gen. x. 19. Originally it formed part of the tribe of 
Judah; but it was long before the Israelites obtained pos¬ 
session of it. The Philistines, their great enemies, made it 
their capital. Although conquered by David, it soon reco¬ 
vered its freedom, and is mentioned as an independent city 
of the Philistines as late as the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 
xviii. 8). After the captivity it became of considerable 
importance in a military point of view, being the last town 
of Palestine on the frontier of Egypt, and consequently the 
key to Egypt and Syria. It was taken after a siege of five 
months by Alexander the Great, who partially destroyed 
it (Plutarch’s Alexander; Strabo, xvi. 2. 30). Under the 
Syrian kings it revived, but was again taken and completely 
destroyed by King Alexander Janneeus about 96 years before 
Christ (Joseph. Ant. xiii. 13. 3). The Roman general 
Gabinius (b.c. 58) rebuilt it; and by reason of the advantage 
of its situation, it soon became a flourishing city. At a later 
period it was assigned by Augustus to Herod the Great as 
part of his kingdom, and after his death it was incorporated 
into the province of Syria. At the time referred to in the 
Acts, Gaza was a city of some consequence. Pomponius 
Mela, who lived in the time of Claudius, calls it ingens urbs 
et munita admodum. Shortly after this, however, it was 
partially destroyed by the Jews at the commencement of the 
Jewish war (Joseph. Bell. Jud. ii. 18. 1). It was an im¬ 
portant city in the time of the Crusaders, and was finally 
taken by Saladin. At present, Gaza is a considerable town 
with a population of about 15,000, known by the name of 
Ghuzzeh, and much frequented by merchants going between 
Syria and Egypt. 1 

Avrr\ early epiyaos—which is desert. It has been disputed 
whether these words apply to the city of Gaza or to the way 
to it; and whether they form part of the address of the 
angel, or are a note added by the historian. Many com¬ 
mentators refer the words to Gaza, but among those who 
1 See Winer’s biblisches WorterbucTi —Gaza. 


do so there is a variety of opinion. Some (Hug, Schnecken- 
burger, Lekebusch, Olshausen) suppose that the description 
refers to the destruction of the city during the Jewish war ; 
and that Luke mentions the deserted state of Gaza on account 
of its recent occurrence. But, not to mention that it is 
doubtful, if the Acts was of so late a date, such a remark is 
unsuitable, because it could have no bearing on the narrative 
before us, which relates not to the city, but to the road to it, 
as the scene of the occurrence. Others (Pearson, Humphry) 
refer the epithet to old Gaza, and suppose that the new town 
was built at some distance from it. According to Strabo, 
old Gaza was destroyed by Alexander the Great, and remained 
deserted (real p,evovcra eprjp.os : Strabo , xvi. 2. 30). They 
accordingly suppose the clause, u which is desert,” to be a 
parenthesis inserted by Luke to explain which Gaza was 
meant. The statement of Strabo, however, has been disputed; 
and indeed the words which are quoted from him are regarded 
as an interpolation, as they are wanting in several manuscripts 
of his works. Unless the distance between the two Gazas, 
the old and the new, was considerable, it does not appear what 
connection the remark has with the narrative. Others (Wolf, 
Krebs) translate the word epTyxos u unfortified.” This, how¬ 
ever, is a doubtful meaning of the term, has no connection 
with the narrative, and besides would express what was pro¬ 
bably not the fact: on the contrary, Pomponius Mela asserts 
that Gaza was fortified. Others (Heinrichs, Kuinoel) suppose 
that the remark is a gloss of some commentator, which was 
afterwards inserted in the text. But this supposition is at 
variance with the combined testimony of all MSS. and versions, 
and is therefore wholly inadmissible. 

The term then, applies to the way — u which way 

is desert.” So Beza, Winer, Ewald, Baumgarten, Lechler, 
Wieseler, Meyer, Stier. This gives a good sense; it served 
to designate the particular road which Philip should take, 
and on which he should meet the Ethiopian eunuch. There 
were several roads leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. Besides 
the most frequented at the present day, the road by Ramleh, 
Dr. Robinson mentions two others,—the one down the great 



Wady es-Surar by Bethshemesh, and the other through 
Wady el-Musurr to Eleutheropolis, and thence to Gaza by a 
more southern tract. The last-named route, as being through 
a district thinly inhabited, he supposes to have been the 
particular way on which Philip met with the eunuch. But 
besides these, there appears to have been in ancient times 
another road, which is with still greater probability identified 
with the road in the narrative. Yon Raumer shows that 
there was a road from Jerusalem to Gaza by the way of 
Bethlehem and Bethzur to Hebron, and which, after leaving 
Hebron, led through a region actually called a desert (Luke 
i. 80 )} The term desert here is employed, as elsewhere in 
Scripture, to denote a barren district destitute of dwellings. 
The words, then, u which is desert,” are to be considered as 
the words of the angel pointing out to Philip the particular 
road which he should take,—namely, that which was then 
known by the name of the desert road, or which led through 
the desert of Judea. This is to be regarded as the sole object 
of the remark. Other reasons are mere groundless supposi¬ 
tions : as that Philip was directed to this desert road, that 
there might be no fear of an attack from the Jews (Chrysos¬ 
tom) ; or because the place was fitting for undisturbed com¬ 
munication (Baumgarten, Wieseler). Lange strangely takes 
the word in a spiritual sense—that Philip w T as sent to a 
district spiritually barren, u which is waste; ” that is, must 
now be spiritually prepared and made. 2 

Ver. 27. Kal ISov avrjp AWlo^r—And behold an Ethiopian. 
Ethiopia was the name used for those lands which lay south 
of Egypt, including the modern countries of Nubia, Cordofan, 
and Northern Abyssinia. Here the northern part of this 
district, anciently called Meroe, is meant, for of this district 
Candace was queen. Evvov%o<;—a eunuch. Such persons 
were employed in Eastern courts as chamberlains, keepers 
of the harem, etc. The term is occasionally used to denote 
an officer of state—a chamberlain ; and so some (Kuincel, 
Olshausen, Kitto) suppose that it is here used. But the 

1 Baumgarten’s Church History , vol. i. pp. 190-192. 

2 Lange’s Apostolisclies Zeitalter, p. 109. 


designation Bwaarr]^ which follows denotes his rank, and 
thus renders such a meaning of ewoS^o? tautological. 
A vvcuiTTj^ — a distinguished officer. This word is generally 
used to denote a potentate or prince; but here it must be 
limited to denote one high in authority under a prince. 

KavBcucrj$, PaaiXicrarj^ AWlottoov— of Candace, queen of the 
Ethiopians. This, we learn from heathen authors, was the 
common name of the queens of Meroe, the northern part of 
Ethiopia. Strabo and Dio Cassius inform us that a power¬ 
ful queen of Ethiopia of this name, whose capital was Napata, 
made war against Petronius, the Roman governor of Egypt, 
in the reign of Augustus (Strabo, xvii. 1. 54, 55 ; Dio Cass, 
liv. 5). 1 Pliny, who lived in the reign of Titus, tells us 
that in his time Candace was the queen of Meroe, and he 
adds that for many years this had been the name of their 
queens (Plin. Hist. Nat. vi. 35); and Eusebius informs us 
that even in his time u the custom still prevailed in Ethiopia 
to be governed by queens” (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. ii. 1). It 
would appear from the statement of Pliny that Candace was 
not the particular name of this individual queen, but a titular 
distinction for the queens of Meroe, similar to that of Pharaoh 
and Ptolemy in Egypt, and Caesar in Rome. 

'O? rjv iirl irdcrr ]? rrj$ 'qd'Cps avrr}<; — icho was over all her 
treasure. rd£a, treasure , taken from the Persian : pecuniam 
regiam gazam Persce vocant (Qu. Curt. iii. 13. 5). 'O? eXg- 

XvOcl TrpocTKVvrjcrwv et? I.—who had come to Jerusalem to 
worship. It is disputed whether the Ethiopian eunuch w r as 
a Jew, an uncircumcised Gentile, or a Jewish proselyte. 
Olshausen supposes that he was a Jew, and that he was 
called an Ethiopian only from his place of residence. 2 Jews, 
as we elsewhere learn, were numerous in Ethiopia. The 
reason, however, which Olshausen assigns, u because prose¬ 
lytes were seldom acquainted with the Hebrew tongue,” is 
singularly weak; for the eunuch might read the prophecy of 
Isaiah from the Greek translation. The natural meaning of 
AWlo^r is, that it denotes the nation to which he belonged— 

1 See Merivale’s History of the Romans , vol. iv. 158. 

2 Olshausen on the Gospels and Acts , vol. iv. p. 341. 



that the eunuch was actually an Ethiopian. Meyer and De 
Wette suppose that he was an uncircumcised heathen—a so- 
called proselyte of the gate—a worshipper of the true God, 
but who had not been incorporated among the Jews by the 
rite of circumcision. 1 The reason they assign for this is, 
because eunuchs were prohibited from approaching the con¬ 
gregation of the Lord (Deut. xxiii. 1). According to this 
view, the Ethiopian eunuch, and not Cornelius, was the first 
convert from the Gentile world. So also Eusebius desig¬ 
nates him as the first among the Gentiles ( 7 rpwro? ef eOvwv) 
who was converted ( Hist . Eccl. ii. 1). The reason, however, 
assigned (Deut. xxiii. 1) is insufficient: there was nothing to 
prevent the eunuch becoming a Jewish proselyte, and being 
admitted to the same religious privileges with those Jews 
who were in a similar condition. The Acts of the Apostles, 
although it does not directly assert, yet seems strongly to 
intimate, that Cornelius was the first Gentile convert (Acts 
xv. 7). The great journey of the eunuch from Ethiopia to 
Jerusalem in order to worship, as well as his speedy recep¬ 
tion into the Christian church, are better explained on the 
supposition that he was a full Jewish proselyte, than that he 
was merely a devout Gentile like Cornelius. 

Ver. 28. v vTrocrTpetywv—was returning. The Ethio¬ 
pian eunuch, on his return from Jerusalem, had to pass 
through Gaza in order to get to Egypt. ^ Ave^/ivwatcev rov 
TrpocprjTrjv 'Hcraiav—read the prophet Isaiah. He probably 
read from the Septuagint. This translation was in general 
use out of Palestine; and the quotation which follows is 
taken from it. In all probability, he had heard when at Jeru¬ 
salem of the wonderful events connected with the life and 
death of Jesus, and of the existence of a numerous party 
who believed that He was the Messiah of the Jews. Of this 
he could not possibly be entirely ignorant; for the disciples 
were numerous in Jerusalem, and had attracted much atten¬ 
tion. This may have led to his study of Isaiah, the most 
evangelical of the prophets, and to this particular passage 
of his prophecy, where the sufferings of the Messiah are so 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 192. 


clearly described. According to this supposition, he was 
examining the prophecies with reference to the question 
whether Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah—whether the 
prophet Isaiah described His sufferings or those of some 
other man. 

Vers. 29-31. Eirrev to Ilvevpa—then the Spirit said. 
The first of those intimations of the Holy Spirit which were 
afterwards of frequent occurrence. The Spirit spoke by means 
of an internal intimation. ' Apdye yLvdxr/ceis a dvayivdnjK,ei $— 
Understandest thou what thou readest ? Philip heard him read 
the prophet Isaiah, but was doubtful whether he understood 
its Messianic reference. Uco? yap av Svvai'prjv — How can i, 
except some man should guide me ? The fulfilment is the key 
to the interpretation of the prophecy. Now, although the 
Ethiopian eunuch must have heard something of Jesus in 
Jerusalem, yet he was in a great measure ignorant of His 
life and death, and therefore wanted this key of interpreta¬ 
tion ; and hence he requests Philip to explain the passage to 

Vers. 32, 33. This passage is taken almost verbatim from 
the Septuagint of Isa. liii. 7, 8 : the only differences are, that 
in the Acts avrov is inserted after rarveivdaci , and 3e before 
yeveav. The words, however, differ somewhat from the 
original Hebrew, where, instead of “ In His humiliation, His 
judgment was taken away,” we read, “ He was taken from 
prison and from judgment.” 

Ver. 33. ’Ev rfj raireivchcrei avrov r] Kpicn ? avrov ijpdrj—In 
His humiliation His judgment was taken away. This difficult 
verse has been variously interpreted. The chief difficulty 
lies in the meaning of the words, u His judgment was taken 
away.” Some (Bengel, Lechler) render them, “ The judg¬ 
ment pronounced on Him by His enemies was taken away— 
cancelled or set aside by God.” Others (Meyer, Robinson) 
render them, u His judgment, the punishment inflicted upon 
Him by His enemies, was taken away—removed, ended, or 
finished by His death.” Humphry supposes that the judicial 
power of the Messiah as Son of God is here alluded to: 
“ In His state of humiliation, while He was in this world, His 

VOL. I. U 



judicial power was taken away—He did not appear as the 
Divine Judge of men.’’ On the whole, the popular meaning 
is to be preferred as the most simple and natural: u His judg¬ 
ment—the judgment due to Him—His rights of justice— 
were withheld by His enemies.” Jesus appeared in a form so 
humble, a man so poor and insignificant, that Pilate, though 
convinced of His innocence, thought it not worth while to 
hazard anything to preserve His life. 

Trjv Se 7 eveav avrov t/? &Lr)<yg<TeTai—and who shall declare 
His generation ? Different interpretations have also been 
given of this clause. The Fathers in general referred it to 
the mystery of the Messiah’s deity: Who shall declare His 
generation—His Divine Sonship?'—a meaning approved by 
Wordsworth, but which ill suits the connection with the 
following clause. Others (Luther, Calvin, Beza, Yitringa, 
Bengel, Hengstenberg) refer the words to the duration of 
His kingdom and His spiritual seed; as if the prophet had 
said, Who shall declare the duration of His reign, or count 
the number of His spiritual offspring? Teved may certainly 
signify posterity, and may thus refer to the spiritual offspring 
of the Messiah; but then such a meaning does not well suit 
the following clause, u for His life is taken from the earth 
at least the connection is remote. Besides, such an interpre¬ 
tation would be tautological; for the prophet in a subsequent 
verse expresses this idea in clearer terms : u He shall see 
His seed, He shall prolong His days” (Isa. liii. 10). Bishop 
Lowth renders the passage, u His manner of life who shall 
declare ?” He informs us that it was the custom, before any 
one was punished for a capital offence among the Jews, to 
make the following proclamation : u Whoever knows anything 
of the innocence of this man, let him come and declare it.” 
And he supposes that when such a proclamation was made 
in the case of Christ, no one stood up in His defence. But 
such a meaning is inadmissible, as ryeved does not signify 
manner of life. Others (Meyer, De Wette, Lechler, Robin¬ 
son, Alford) render the passage: u Who shall declare His 
generation?”—that is, set forth the wickedness of His con¬ 
temporaries? This meaning certainly best suits the context: 



u For”—as a proof and demonstration of this indescribable 
wickedness — u His life was taken from the earth,” i.e. He was 
put to death. 

Ver. 34. Hep\ tivo$ 6 7rpo<p/]T7]<; Xeyet tovto ; rrepl eavrov, 
r/ 7 repl erepov tlvo<;—O f whom speaks the prophet this ? of 
himself or of some other man ? The eunuch, in studying the 
prophecy with reference to Jesus, saw a possible objection: 
that the words might not be a prediction, but the historical 
statement of a fact; and that Isaiah might be speaking of 
himself either as an individual, or as the representative of 
the prophetic class. Perhaps the opinion that Isaiah was the 
person spoken of might have been advanced by the Jews in 
Jerusalem in their arguments with the disciples of Jesus, and 
the eunuch might have heard the passage so expounded. 

Ver. 35. Ev^^ekicraro avrw tov 7 Irjaovv—He preached 
to him Jesus. Philip showed the correspondence between 
the life and death of Jesus and the predictions of the pro¬ 
phet, and thus proved from this and other prophecies that 
Jesus was the Messiah whom the Jews expected. The 
Messianic nature of this prophecy has been generally ad¬ 
mitted by all Christians ; it is one of the strongholds of 
Christianity ; indeed, when reading this fifty-third chapter 
of Isaiah, we seem rather to be reading a history of the past 
than a prediction of the future, so clear is the correspondence 
between the prophecy and the history of Jesus. In these 
later chapters of Isaiah there is a description of “ the servant 
of the Lordand it is of him that the prophet speaks. 
Modern Jews have referred the prediction to various indivi¬ 
duals—to Hezekiah, to the prophet Isaiah himself, and to 
Jeremiah ; but all these applications are inadmissible : there 
is little or no correspondence between the prophecy and its 
supposed fulfilment in any of these persons. More plausible 
is the opinion, that by “ the servant of the Lord 77 Israel 
collectively is meant. But here also the application is forced ; 
and even although there may be a reference to Israel, yet it 
can only be in a subordinate sense, as a type of the Messiah. 
Accordingly several Jewish writers, such as Rabbi Solomon 
Jarchi, and Rabbi Isaac Abrabanel, admit that the Messiah 



is here spoken of, although they are either so blind or so 
prejudiced as not to draw the inference that Jesus of Naza¬ 
reth is that Messiah. 1 

Ver. 36.—* H\6ov hri tl vScop—they came to a certain water. 
As the particular road along which Philip and the eunuch 
travelled is a matter of conjecture, so the water, the fountain 
or brook in which he was baptized, must remain undeter¬ 
mined. Tradition fixes on a fountain near Bethsur, on the 
road from Jerusalem to Gaza, which passes by Hebron, and 
which, as we have already seen, was probably the way along 
which the eunuch was journeying. Both Eusebius and 
Jerome concur in this tradition. The latter states : “ Bethsur, 
now called Bethsoron, is a village on the road from .ZElia 
(Jerusalem) to Hebron, at the twentieth milestone, near 
which there is a fountain, which issues at the base of the 
mountain, and is absorbed by the same ground in which it 
rises ; and the Acts of the Apostles relates that here the 
eunuch of Candace was baptized by Philip” 2 (Jerome, de 
loc. Heb. Bethsur). The site of this fountain has been iden¬ 
tified near a village called Betur, beside which are the ruins 
of a Christian church. It is, however, improbable that this 
was the spot, as Bethsur is situated before that part of the 
road is reached which can with any propriety be called 
desert. In the age of the Crusaders, Ain Haniyeh, five 
miles south-west of Jerusalem, was fixed upon as the place 
of the baptism, where there is still a fountain, known by 
the name of St. Philip’s fountain. Dr. Robinson supposes 
that the baptism took place in a brook near Tell el-Hasy, on 
the road from Beit Jibrin to Gaza. u When,” he observes, 
u we were at Tell el-Hasy, and saw the water standing along 
the bottom of the adjacent wady, we could not but remark 
the coincidence of several circumstances with the account of 
the eunuch’s baptism. This water is on the most direct- 
route from Beit Jibrin to Gaza, on the most southern road 
from Jerusalem, and in the midst of a country now desert, 
that is, without villages or fixed habitations.” 

1 See Du Veil on the Acts of the Apostles , p. 210. 

2 Pearson’s Lectures on the Acts. 


Yers. 37, 38. For ver. 37, see Critical Note. El? to vScop 
— into the water. It is generally supposed that these words 
are in favour of baptism by immersion. But whatever was 
the practice in apostolic times, the words do not necessarily 
bear this meaning : they merely imply that Philip and the 
eunuch went into the water for the purpose of baptism ; but 
they state nothing as to the mode of its administration. 

Yer. 39. The Alexandrine MS. (A 2 , but according to 
Tischendorf corrected by the original scribe) after u3aro? 
reads, Ilvevpa aytov erreirecrev iirl tov evvov^ov, dyyeXo^ 8e 
Kvpiov , etc .— u The Holy Ghost fell upon the eunuch, but 
the angel of the Lord caught away Philip.” This reading is 
also found in seven cursive MSS., two versions, and Jerome. 
It is curious, but doubtless spurious, and has never been 
adopted by any eminent critic. Uvevga Kvplov ypiracre tov 
tpikiTrirov—the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip. Some 
(Olshausen, Hackett) suppose that these words merely inti¬ 
mate that Philip felt himself urged by a divine impulse to 
depart, but not that the mode of his departure was miracu¬ 
lous in any other respect. 1 But the impression which the 
narrative leaves upon the mind, the forcible word ypiracre , 
the eunuch seeing him no more, and Philip being found at 
Azotus, upwards of thirty miles distant, is, that the removal 
was miraculous, although its mode and nature are not de¬ 
scribed. So Meyer, De Wette, Bengel, Alford, Wordsworth. 
Similar miraculous removals appear to have happened in the 
case of Elijah (1 Kings xviii. 12; 2 Kings ii. 16). The 
same verb occurs in the description of the ecstasy of Paul 
(2 Cor. xii. 2, 4). Zeller infers, from the account of the 
miraculous nature of Philip’s removal, that the whole narra¬ 
tive is mythical, and that the only historical truth in the 
account is, that a certain Ethiopian nobleman was converted 
to Christianity. 2 Such attempts to explain away the mira¬ 
culous by mere unsupported assertions cannot be met with 
arguments. If the miraculous be denied, then certainly the 
whole narrative is mythical. But if once admitted, then our 

1 Hackett on the Acts , p. 158. 

2 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , pp. 175, 176. 



sole duty is to find out the true meaning of the passage, and 
not to receive some miracles and reject others on mere arbi¬ 
trary considerations. ’Eiropevero yap rrjv oSov avrov yalpwv 
—for he went on his way rejoicing. Tap — for , not and, as in 
our version. A reason is here given : u The eunuch saw him 
no more, because he went on his way rejoicing.” The mira¬ 
culous removal of Philip was an attestation to the eunuch of 
Philip’s teaching, and a confirmation of his faith. 

Tradition states that this eunuch, whose name is given as 
Indich, preached the gospel in his own country after his 
return ; that queen Candace was converted; and that a 
flourishing church was established in Ethiopia (Nicephorus, 
ii. 6). Eusebius states, that “ on his return to his country 
he proclaimed the knowledge 1 of God, and the salutary abode 
of our Saviour among men” (Hist. Heel. ii. 1) ; and Jerome 
writes, u The eunuch was sent as an apostle to the nations 
of the Ethiopians” (Jerome on Isa. liii.). These traditions 
are probably erroneous ; at least history does not record any 
traces of Christianity among the Ethiopians until the fourth 
century, when their conversion was effected by Frumentius, 
in the reign of Constantine. 

Ver. 40. Eh 'Atjwrov—at Azotus. The force of the pre¬ 
position eh is, that Philip was carried away by the Spirit 
until he came to Azotus. Azotus, or Ashdod, was one of the 
five chief cities of the Philistines. It was about thirty miles 
from Gaza, and lay midway between it and Joppa, about three 
miles distant from the Mediterranean. Although allotted to 
the tribe of Judah, yet it continued to maintain itself as a 
Philistine city until the time of Nehemiah (Neh. xiii. 23, 24). 
It is said to have sustained a siege of twenty-nine years by 
Psammetichus king of Egypt, by whom it was at length 
taken (Herod, ii. 157). Afterwards it was destroyed by 
Jonathan Maccabseus, but rebuilt by the proconsul Gabinius. 
It belonged to the kingdom of Herod the Great, who be¬ 
queathed it to his sister Salome. It is now an insignificant 
village, and still retains its ancient name, Esdud. Evyyye- 
X/feTo t«9 7roXet? 7rdcra9 —he evangelized all the cities. In 
journeying from Azotus to Caesarea, Philip would pass 



through the populous plain of Saron, and would preach the 
gospel in Lydda, Joppa, and other cities. "Ews tov ekOelv 
avrov els Kcuaapecav — until he came to Ccesarea. Leke- 
busch supposes that this statement is made by anticipation, 
and that Philip spent some time in preaching the gospel 
before he came to Csesarea; and that this was the reason 
why there is no notice of him in the narrative of the con- 


version of Cornelius. 1 Twenty years after this, mention is 
made of Philip as still resident in Caesarea. When Paul 
was on his last journey to Jerusalem, we read that when he 
and his company came to Caesarea, they entered into the 
house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, 
and abode with him (Acts xxi. 8). In the traditions of the 
church, Philip the deacon is confounded with Philip the 
apostle (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. iii. 31). He is said to have died 
bishop of Tralles. 

Caesarea, called Caesarea Augustus— Katcrapela 2e{3aaTrj 
—was situated on the shores of the Mediterranean, about 
seventy miles distant from Jerusalem. It was also called 
Caesarea Palestinae, and Caesarea Stratonis. In the time of 
Strabo it was known by the name of the Tower of Strato, 
and was merely a station for vessels (Strabo, xvi. 2. 27). 
Herod the Great, however, in the course of ten years built 
a magnificent city, and named it, in honour of Augustus, 
Caesarea. Josephus calls it a city of palaces. “ Herod,” he 
says, u built it all with white stone, adorned it with the most 
splendid palaces, and, what was the greatest and the most 
laborious work of all, with a harbour which was at all times 
free from the waves of the sea” {Ant. xv. 9. 6; Bell. Jud. 
i. 21. 5). The harbour, he tells us, was equal in size to the 
celebrated Piraeus at Athens. After the death of Herod, 
and when Judea was made a part of the Roman empire, 
Csesarea became the residence of the Roman procurators. 
Here Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus held their courts. 
Here were the headquarters of the Roman troops. Hence it 
was called by Tacitus the capital of Judea (caput Judcece , 
Tac. Hist. ii. 79). Although the Jews were numerous, yet 
1 Lekebusch’s AposteJgeschichte , p. 101. 


the inhabitants were chiefly Gentiles, and Greek was the 
language spoken. At the commencement of the Jewish 
war, all the Jews resident in Caesarea to the number of 
twenty thousand were killed; so that, in the emphatic words 
of the Jewish historian, in one hour Caesarea was emptied of 
its Jewish inhabitants {Bell. Jud. ii. 18. 1). Here Vespasian 
was declared emperor; and in consequence of the fidelity of 
the city, he raised it to the dignity of a Roman colony, and 
bestowed upon it many privileges. 1 Afterwards Caesarea 
occurs seldom in history: it appears to have fallen gradually 
into decay and obscurity. Eusebius, the father of ecclesi¬ 
astical history, was born there, and resided as bishop. It is 
occasionally mentioned in the wars of the Crusades. Caesarea 
is now a large heap of ruins, and its stones are used to build 
and repair the neighbouring towns of Syria ; whilst the old 
name Kaisariyeh still lingers to mark the spot where the 
proud metropolis of Roman Judea stood, and to teach a 
lesson of the vanity of earthly greatness. But in the apos¬ 
tolic age Csesarea was at the height of its splendour—the 
city of palaces, the seat of Roman government and law, and 
the rival of Jerusalem as the capital of Judea. 2 

1 The history of Caesarea is thus summed up by Pliny : Stratonis 
turris, eadem Caesarea, ab Herode rege condita: nunc Colonia, prima 
Flavia, a Yespasiano Imperatore deducta (v. 14). 

2 Winer’s biblisches Worterbuch ; Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible ; 
Conybeare and Howson’s Travels of St. Paul. 


CONVERSION OF PAUL.— Acts ix. 1-19. 

1 And Saul, yet breathing threatening and murder against the 
disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 And desired of him 
letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he should find any who 
were of the way, both men and women, he might bring them bound 
to Jerusalem. 3 And it came to pass, as he journeyed, that he drew 
near Damascus ; and suddenly there flashed around him a light from 
heaven : 4 And having fallen to the earth, he heard a voice saying 

to him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ? 5 And he said, Who 

art Thou, Lord ? And He replied, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: 
6 But arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou 
must do. 7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, 
hearing the voice, but seeing no one. 8 And Saul arose from the earth ; 
and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing : and they, leading him 
by the hand, brought him to Damascus. 9 And he was three days not 
seeing, and neither did eat nor drink. 

10 Now there was a certain disciple in Damascus, named Ananias ; 
and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, 
I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into 
the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas 
for one called Saul of Tarsus : for, behold, he prays, 12 And has seen 
a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hand on him, that 
he might receive his sight. 13 And Ananias answered, Lord, I have 
heard by many concerning this man, how much evil he did to Thy 
saints at Jerusalem : 14 And here he has authority from the chief 

priests to bind all who invoke Thy name. 15 But the Lord said to 
him, Go : because he is to me a chosen vessel, to bear my name before 
the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I shall show 
him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake. 17 And Ananias 
went, and entered into the house ; and putting his hands on him, said, 
Brother Saul, the Lord sent me, even Jesus, who appeared to thee on 
the way as thou earnest, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be 
filled with the Holy Ghost. 18 And immediately there fell from his 
eyes as it were scales ; and he received sight, and arose, and was baptized. 
19 And having received food, he was strengthened. 





Yer. 5. The words Kvpios elirev are found only in G, H, 
but are wanting in A, B, C, and are rejected by Lachmann 
and Tischendorf; N has 6 he ehrev. Yers. 5, 6. After hiw/ceis 
the textus receptus has cr/cXrjpov aot TTpos /cevrpa \arcT%eiv. 
Tpepjwv re /cal Oapifiwv ehre' Kvpie , t i pee 6 eXecs TroLr/aai ; 
Kal 6 Kvptos jrpos avrov. But no Greek MS. whatever has 
been found which contains these words. E has only the first 
five words. They are therefore omitted by all recent critics. 
Yer. 8. Ovheva is found in C, E, G, H; whereas A, B, 
and N read ovhev : the latter reading has been preferred by 
Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Meyer. Yer. 12. The words 
ev opdp,aro before avhpa , found in this order in E, G, H, and 
in B and C before elhev , are wanting in A and X, and are re¬ 
jected by Lachmann and Tischendorf. Yer. 18. IIapa^p7jp,a 
is found in E, G, but omitted in A, B, C, H, K, and is re¬ 
jected by later critics. 


Next to the narrative of the effusion of the Holy Ghost at 
Pentecost, this is the most important section of the Acts of 
the Apostles. We have in it the account of the conversion 
of the greatest defender and the most successful missionary 
of the Christian faith ; a man who, beyond all the other 
apostles, has indelibly impressed his name and spirit upon 
Christianity, and especially upon Protestantism; and who 
has thus of all men exerted the mightiest influence upon the 
world. Besides numerous allusions to the event in the epistles 
of Paul, we have three separate accounts of it in the Acts : 
the first is the narrative of Luke, now under consideration ; 
the second is contained in the speech of Paul before the 
Jewish multitude at Jerusalem (Acts xxii. 4--16) ; and the 
third forms part of his defence before King Agrippa (Acts 
xxvi. 12-18). These accounts agree in the principal par¬ 
ticulars, but differ in subordinate details ; thus affording 



that mark of internal credibility—substantial truth combined 
with circumstantial variety; and this is the case whether the 
differences between the accounts be capable or incapable of 
reconciliation. They also mutually supply what is wanting 
in each other, and complete the history. From Acts xxii. 
we learn that the appearance occurred at noon ; and from 
Acts xxvi., that the light which shone down from heaven sur¬ 
passed the sun in brightness. And by comparing the three 
accounts together, we find that whereas the phenomenon 
affected both Paul and his companions, the impression 
which it made upon Paul was clear and definite, whilst the 
impression which it made upon his companions was indis¬ 
tinct : the voice from heaven addressed the former, but not 
the latter. 

Ver. 1. f O Se gtl eyrrvewv . . . Kvplov—And Saul , 

yet breathing threatening and murder against the disciples of 
the Lord. The last account which we had of Paul was that 
he was consenting to the death of Stephen, and made havoc 
of the church; we are now told that his persecuting zeal, 
instead of diminishing by time, increased. It must have 
increased his rage to find that the dispersion of the Christians 
served to the diffusion of their opinions; to hear that those 
whom he had been instrumental in driving from Jerusalem 
were so successful in preaching the religion he was so eager to 
root out. ’ E/JL7TV6WV , a stronger term than irvecov. Upoae\6(bv 
tco dp^iepei — having gone to the high priest. As the precise 
year of Paul’s conversion is uncertain, so it is also uncertain 
who was then the high priest in office. If the conversion of 
Paul took place as early as the year 36, then Caiaphas was 
still high priest; but if, as is more probable, it did not occur 
until the year 37, then either Jonathan the son of Annas, 
who was made high priest by Yitellius, governor of Syria, at 
the passover of that year (Joseph. Ant. xviii. 4. 3), was in 
office; or his brother Theophilus, who succeeded him at the 
following Pentecost {Ant. xviii. 5. 3). Annas, however, the 
father-in-law of Caiaphas, and father of Jonathan and Theo¬ 
philus, seems still to have exercised the chief power. (See 
note to Acts iv. 6.) 



Ver. 2. H TTjacLTo 'Trap avrov eiucrToXds—desired of him 
letters. The Sanhedrim, however much its power might 
have been abridged by the Romans, was still recognised as 
the supreme Jewish court, and exercised great influence and 
authority among the Jewish synagogues abroad, especially in 
cities bordering upon Palestine. (See former note on the 
Sanhedrim.) Eh Aayacncov—to Damascus. Damascus is 
about 140 miles north-east from Jerusalem, situated on a large 
fertile plain or oasis, well watered with many rivulets, and on 
all sides surrounded by the desert. Its name occurs as early 
as the time of Abraham, being mentioned as the residence of 
Eleazar, the steward of his house (Gen. xv. 2). Afterwards 
it became the capital of the Syrian kings, who were engaged 
in constant war with the kings of Israel and Judah. Twice 
it was occupied by the Israelites—once by David, and a 
second time by Jeroboam n. king of Israel. It was suc¬ 
cessively possessed by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, 
and Greeks, and at length fell into the possession of the 
Romans during the wars of Mithridates, when it was taken 
by Pompey (Joseph. Ant. xiv. 2. 3). At the time of Paul’s 
conversion, Damascus was probably under the Romans, though 
some suppose that it was temporarily occupied by Aretas, the 
king of Arabia Nabataea (1 Cor. xi. 32). But this occupa¬ 
tion probably occurred three years afterwards. (See note to 
Acts ix. 25.) It abounded so much with Jews, that Josephus 
tells us that during the Jewish war ten thousand of them 
were massacred in one hour {Bell. Jud. ii. 20. 2). In the 
year 634 it fell into the hands of the Saracens, and under 
the Ommiad caliphs became the capital of the Mohammedan 
world. It was much celebrated in the wars of the Crusaders. 
At present it is one of the largest cities in the East, contain¬ 
ing a population of 150,000, of whom nearly 20,000 are 
Christians. 1 

ITpo? Ta? avvayeoyds—to the synagogues. As there was a 
large Jewish population in Damascus, there would be several 

1 Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul ; Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible; 
Winer’s biblisches Wbrterbuch ; Kitto’s Illustrated Commentary, vol. i. 
pp. 33, 34. 



synagogues. The Christians had not as yet ceased to worship 
there, and the rulers of the synagogues exercised an over¬ 
sight over the religious opinions of their members. (See 
former note on the synagogue.) 

edv rivas evpy rfj ? oSov ovtcls — that if he found any 
of the ivay. “The way” is a common expression in the Acts 
for the Christian religion (Acts xix. 9, xxii. 4, xxiv. 22). It 
signifies a particular mode of life or conduct. Some render 
it the way of salvation, the way of faith in Jesus Christ, the 
way of the Lord. Here, however, being used by one who 
was then an opponent of Christianity, it is equivalent to the 
word “ sect: ” u if he found any of the sect ”—that sect 
among the Jews who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was 
the Messiah. It is evident that Christians were then so 
numerous at Damascus, that a report of them had reached 
Jerusalem. Probably several natives of Damascus had been 
converted on the day of Pentecost; and some of the dis¬ 
persed who travelled as far as Phenice and Antioch might 
have reached Damascus. Being a great mercantile city, 
there was a constant influx of strangers. Paul may have 
fixed on Damascus as the sphere of his persecuting zeal, on 
account of the number of Christians there. Perhaps also, 
as Lange remarks, he regarded Damascus as the gate to the 
dispersed Jews of the East in Mesopotamia, Babylon, and 
Assyria, and it appeared to him to be above all things neces¬ 
sary that that gate should be closed. 1 

Ver. 3. ’Ev &e ra> 7rop€vecr6ei — and as he journeyed. There 
were several roads between Jerusalem and Damascus, so that 
it is doubtful which way Paul and his companions took. 
One road led by Neapolis (Shechem) and Scythopolis, 
crossing the Jordan at the foot of the Sea of Tiberias, 
thence to Gadara, and so to Damascus. Another went by 
a more northern direction, crossed the Jordan a few miles 
above the Sea of Tiberias, and thence led by Caesarea 
Philippi to Damascus. And a third joined the road between 
Petra and Damascus by Jericho and Heshbon. 2 Whichever 

1 Lange’s Apostolisches Zeitalter, p. 114. 

2 Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul, vol. i. p. 102. 




way was taken, the time occupied in the journey would be 
about six days. 'Eyevero avrov eyyi^eiv rfj Aayacncw — it 
came to pass that he drew near Damascus. Tradition fixes 
the scene of the conversion on u an open green spot sur¬ 
rounded by trees,” now used as the Christian burying-place 
on the eastern side of the city. 1 

’E^alcpurj^ t e irepifarpa^rev avrov (pws etc rod ovpavov — 
and suddenly there flashed around him a light from heaven. 
Several (Eichhorn, Ammon, Rosenmiiller, Kuinoel, Heinrichs, 
Ewald) attempt to account for the entire occurrence on 
natural principles. They suppose that Paul was in a dis¬ 
turbed state of mind. He had been deeply impressed with 
the heroic death of Stephen and other martyrs, and was 
moved by the prudent counsels of Gamaliel. Hence he felt 
that he might be in the wrong, and the Christians in the 
right; and this new outbreak of fanaticism was only an 
attempt to stifle his convictions. The assertions of the 
Christians about the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus 
also weighed upon him. While journeying to Damascus in 
this perturbed mental state, he encountered a great thunder¬ 
storm (Ewald supposes the sirocco) : 2 one vivid flash of 
lightning struck him to the ground, and his excited imagina¬ 
tion caused him to see in the lightning the appearance of 
Jesus, and to hear in the rolling thunder the words of Jesus. 
And when he arose from the earth he saw no man; he was 
temporarily blinded by the lightning. 3 Such an opinion is 
composed of suppositions entirely arbitrary, and has not the 
slightest foundation in the text, where no mention is made 
of a storm of thunder and lightning. Besides, of all men, 
Paul was the most free from fanaticism, and the most un¬ 
likely to mistake mere natural phenomena for an actual 
appearance of Christ; above all, to think that he heard defi¬ 
nite words addressed to him, whilst in reality it was only a 
peal of thunder. His avoidance of unnecessary suffering, his 
appeal to his privileges as a Roman citizen when threatened 

1 Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible. 

2 Ewald’s Geschichte des Apostolischen Zeitalters , p. 346. 

3 See Kuinoel’s Novi Teslamenti Libri Historici, vol. iii. p. 152. 



with scourging, and his courteous reply to the sneers of 
Festus, are totally incompatible with the spirit of a fanatic. 
He was indeed full of zeal; but his zeal was guided by 
reason and tempered by prudence, as any one may see who 
carefully peruses his Epistles to the Corinthians. 

The view taken by Renan is somewhat similar. He sup¬ 
poses that Paul, when journeying to Damascus, was in a 
distracted state of mind; that he was troubled and shaken 
in his faith; that he was frequently filled with remorse for 
his conduct; that at times he fancied he saw the sweet face 
of the Master, who inspired the disciples with so much 
patience, regarding him with an air of pity and tender re¬ 
proach ; and that he was much impressed with the accounts 
that he had heard of the apparitions of Jesus. As he drew 
near Damascus these feelings overcame him; his nerves 
were relaxed ; a fever or sunstroke suddenly attacked him, 
deprived him of consciousness, and threw him senseless on 
the ground. Then he became a prey to hallucinations : he 
saw the countenance which had haunted him for several 
days: he saw Jesus Himself, and heard Him saying, u Saul, 
Saul, why persecutest thou me ? ” His impetuous nature 
hurried him from one extreme to another; and when he 
recovered from this nervous attack, he passed from being a 
zealous persecutor to be an equally zealous apostle. Renan 
supposes that it is not improbable that external circumstances 
may have brought on the crisis: that a thunderstorm may 
have suddenly broken out; and that Paul, in his excitement, 
interpreted as the voice of the storm the thoughts really 
passing in his own mind. 1 

But all these rationalistic writers are surpassed by Bahrdt, 
who supposes that Jesus was only apparently dead upon the 
cross, and that after His revival He lived in retirement, 
and came forth from it to present Himself to Paul in order 
to destroy his persecuting zeal. Equally unfounded is the 
opinion of Bretschneider, who supposes that all this hap¬ 
pened to Paul in a trance, and was the same vision to which 
he alludes in 2 Cor. xii. 1-7. Paul was not alone when the 

1 Renan’s Les Apotres , ch. x. 


event happened: he had companions with him, who were 
also arrested by the appearance. 1 

Another class of critics (Baur, Zeller), finding the ration¬ 
alistic explanation indefensible, endeavour to account for 
the occurrence on mythical principles. They suppose that 
the true account of Paul’s conversion has been embellished 
by a series of myths and miraculous interpositions. But 
still the fact that Paul was converted has to be accounted 
for; and Zeller is forced to admit that Paul himself was 
convinced of the reality of the appearance of Christ to him. 2 

All these explanations are attempts to get rid of .the 
miraculous. As Neander well observes: u In the explana¬ 
tion of the transaction of which we are here speaking, it is 
of consequence in what relation the inquirer is placed to 
that on which the essence of the Christian faith rests, and 
with which it stands or falls— the fact of the actual resur¬ 
rection of Christ. Whoever acknowledges this, occupies a 
standpoint where he can have no motive to deny the super¬ 
natural in the history that is connected with that fact. 
Such a person can have no ground for mistrusting the ex¬ 
pressions of Paul respecting this appearance to him of the 
risen Saviour. But whoever, from his own point of view, 
cannot acknowledge the actual resurrection of Christ, is so 
far incapacitated for admitting the objective nature of this 
appearance to Paul, and must from the first stand in a 
hostile relation to it.” 3 

The state of Paul’s mind at the time of his conversion is 
an interesting subject of inquiry: in other words, How far 
was this sudden conversion prepared ? Some (Neander, 
Olshausen) suppose that there was a preparation. Accord¬ 
ing to them, Paul was deeply impressed with the death of 

1 So also Dr. Davidson accounts for Paul’s conversion by conceiving 
that the phenomena were subjective, and not objective ; and he explains 
it by parallels in the lives of Ignatius Loyola and Colonel Gardiner (New 
Introduction to the New Testament , ii. 246-248). 

2 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte, pp. 195-197. 

3 Neander’s Planting , vol. ii. p. 94. See also the short but excellent 
remarks of Meyer on Paul’s conversion, Apostelgeschichte , pp. 200-203. 



Stephen; he felt that Jesus might possibly be the Messiah, 
and there was a violent struggle carried on within him be¬ 
tween his old pharisaical notions and these new convictions. 1 
But, in the narrative, there is nothing to countenance this view 
of the subject. On the contrary, we are informed that Paul 
consented to the death of Stephen, and that his hatred against 
the Christians was not in the least abated. Accordingly others 
(Baumgarten, Meyer) suppose that there was no prepara¬ 
tion whatever; that he was blinded up to the very moment 
of his conversion ; that he had neither doubts nor scruples 
about what he was doing. 2 The truth seems to lie between 


these extremes. Paul, in the midst of all his errors, was 
actuated by the love of the truth ; his zeal for what he 
thought the truth of God was the cause of his bitter hostility 
to the Christians. The chief priests, the Sadducees, and the 
Pharisees, persecuted in a great measure from impure and 
unworthy motives; whereas with Paul there was always the 
conviction that he was doing God service. Falsehood and 
insincerity were foreign to his character. 

Ver. 4. The light which flashed around Paul and his 
companions was the light of the divine glory (Sofa)—the 
Shekinah, in which Christ now dwells. It is not directly 
asserted, but seems implied, that Paul saw in this light the 
glorified body of Jesus (note to ver. 17). The voice called 
him by name, u Saul, Saul!” Elsewhere we are informed 
that these words were spoken in the Hebrew tongue; and 
accordingly the words here are according to the Hebrew, 
and not the Greek form : %aov\, %aov\, ri ye Scw/ceis;—why 
persecutest thou me? As Chrysostom beautifully renders 
it, u What wrong, great or small, hast thou suffered from 
me, that thou doest these things'?” Christ here identifies 
Himself with His people. He does not charge Paul with 
persecuting His disciples, but with persecuting Himself 
(Luke x. i6). 

Ver. 5. Tt? el, Kvpce ;—Who art Thou, Lord? Paul would 

1 Olshausen on the Gospels and Acts , vol. iv. p. 347. 

2 Baumgarten’s Apostolic History , vol. i. p. 206 ; Meyer’s Apostel- 
geschichte , p. 201. 

VOL. I. 




at first be awe-struck when he saw the glorified appearance, 
and heard the voice speaking to him ; but the thought would 
soon occur to him that He who now addressed him was Jesus, 
whose disciples he was persecuting. u Conscience itself 
would readily say that it is Jesus” (Bengel). The inter¬ 
polation which follows in the textus receptus —from cncXppov 
to 7 rpo? avrov of ver. 6 — is found in no Greek manuscript 
(see Critical Note). It occurs in the Vulgate, and is quoted 
by Theophylact and CEcumenius. It is evidently borrowed 
from other accounts of Paul’s conversion : the words ctkXt]- 
pov croc 7 rpo? xevrpa Xa/CTL^etv are taken verbatim from ch. 
xxvi. 14 ; and Kvpie , rl pie OeXeis Troirjcrai; are borrowed 
from ch. xxii. 10. All Greek manuscripts begin, ver. 6, 
with aWa. 

Ver. 6. According to the account here given by Luke, the 
whole address of the Lord to Saul is: u I am Jesus, whom 
thou persecutest; but arise and go to the city, and it shall be 
told thee what thou must do;” whereas, according to Paul 
himself, in his apology before Agrippa, a longer address is 
given (Acts xxvi. 16-18). Zeller finds in this a discrepancy 
between the two narratives; 1 but rather it is one of those 
variations which confirm the truth of the fact, proving that 
these two accounts, though incorporated in the Acts, proceed 
from different sources. Some suppose that the address given 
in Paul’s apology was directly uttered by Jesus to him on the 
road to Damascus: nor does the short account of Luke forbid 
this supposition. Others (Meyer, Baumgarten, Olshausen, 
Lange) suppose that Paul, in his defence before Agrippa, 
for the sake of brevity, omits all mention of the ministry of 
Ananias, and gives the address which Ananias was commis¬ 
sioned by Christ to make as if it was actually spoken by 
Christ in person ; so that, as Meyer observes, u Paul con¬ 
denses his narrative, and what was at a later period enjoined 
by the mediation of another is put at once into the mouth of 
Christ, the immediate author of that injunction.” 2 Either 
hypothesis affords a reasonable explanation of the variation in 

1 Zeller's Apostelgeschichte , p. 192. 

2 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte, p. 204. 




the different accounts, and certainly it cannot be maintained 
that there is any discrepancy between them : the utmost that 
can be said is, that the one narrative mentions what the other 

Yer. 7. In this verse, however, there are two variations 
which seem much more like discrepancies. First, we are 
informed that the men who journeyed with Paul stood 
speechless; whereas, according to ch. xxvi. 14, they all fell 
to the ground. Secondly, we are told that they heard the 
voice, but saw no one; whereas, according to ch. xxii. 9, they 
saw the light, but heard not the voice of Him who spake. 
But even these differences evidently relate to minute par¬ 
ticulars, and instead of militating against the narrative, serve 
rather, as the unimportant differences of independent wit¬ 
nesses, to confirm its truth. 1 

The first apparent discrepancy relates to the posture of 
Paul’s companions. According to Luke, they stood speech¬ 
less ; according to Paul, they all fell to the ground. Many 
critics (Neander, Olshausen, Meyer, De Wette, Alford) 
freely admit the discrepancy, but regard it as minute and 
entirely unimportant. Others (Lechler, Kuincel, Baum- 
garten, Bengel) suppose that these statements refer to 
different periods of time; that at first they all fell panic- 
struck to the ground, but that the companions of Paul 
recovered from their fright sooner than himself, and rose up. 
Others (Lange, Hackett) suggest what appears the correct 
solution of the difficulty : that the phrase eiarrjiceiaav iveol, 
stood speechless , does not refer to posture at all, but merely 
intimates that they remained fixed, were panic-struck, were 
overpowered by what they heard and saw. It is natural to 
suppose that they would all fall to the earth through fear ; 
and Paul himself informs us they actually did so. 

The second apparent discrepancy relates to the voice from 
heaven, which according to Luke was audible to Paul’s com¬ 
panions, but according to Paul was inaudible. Here there 

1 Although these testimonies are in the same hook, yet they proceed 
from different sources: the one is the narrative of Luke, and the other 
the narrative of Paul. 



seems an actual contradiction. L.uke states, cucovovres yev 
rr)? (pcovrjs —“ hearing the voice ; ” whereas Paul says, rgv 
(ficovrjv ov/c rjnovaav rod XaXovvros fxoi— a they heard not the 
voice of Him who spoke to me ” (Acts xxii. 9). Here also 
many critics (Neander, Olshausen, Meyer, De Wette, Alford) 
acknowledge the discrepancy, and do not attempt its removal. 
By those who attempt a reconciliation, various solutions have 
been advanced. Some (Castalio, Beza) suppose that when 
Luke says u they heard the voice,” he means the voice of 
Paul. But this is a forced solution. The voice referred to 
is, without doubt, the voice of the Lord. Others (Ham¬ 
mond, Rosenmiiller, Heinrichs) suppose that (froovg in Luke’s 
narrative is to be taken in the sense of thunder— u they heard 
the thunder; ” a meaning of the word not uncommon in the 
Septuagint, but here inadmissible. Others (Baumgarten, 
Lechler, Lange, Wordsworth) think that the meaning, ac¬ 
cording to Luke, is that they heard the sound of the words ; 
and according to Paul, that they did not understand what 
was spoken. This appears a perfectly admissible solution. 
Nor does it do any violence to the words, as a/coveiv is often 
used in the sense of to understand—to hear with the under¬ 
standing. According to this solution, then, the meaning is, 
that the words of the Lord were heard indeed both by Paul 
and his companions, but were understood only by the former ; 
or, as Baumgarten states it, that u Paul received a clear and 
definite impression, but his companions an indefinite one.” 1 
Lange directs attention to a similar circumstance in the life 
of Christ; where a voice from heaven to Him was heard 
in a threefold manner : those who were believers recognised 
it as the voice of God, and heard the words ; those who 
were not believers, but susceptible, heard it as the indis¬ 
tinct utterance of an angel; whilst the unsusceptible mul¬ 
titude regarded it as the noise of thunder (John xii. 28, 
29). 2 

Ver. 8. ’Hvewy/xevwv $e twv ocfodaXyoov avrov ouBev efiXeire 
— and when his eyes were opened he saw nothing. Paul, rising 

1 Baumgarten’s Apostolic History , vol. i. p. 209, Clark’s translation. 

2 Lange’s Apostolisches Zeitalter , vol. ii. p. 116. 



from the ground, and opening his eyes, found himself blind. 
He himself tells us that he was blinded by the light which 
shone from heaven. a I could not see,” says he, u for the 
glory of that light (Acts xxii. 11). The blindness is not 
to be explained on natural principles. Some (Eichhorn, 
Kuinoel) suppose that he was blinded by the lightning, and 
that the cause of this blindness was temporary amaurosis 
( schwarzer Staar)} The light which blinded him was super¬ 
natural. Although not asserted in the narrative, yet it is 
reasonable to suppose, with Calvin, that this blindness had a 
moral purpose, and served not only to intimate to Paul the 
blindness of the state in which he had been, but also to 
impress him with a deeper sense of the power of Jesus as 
the protector of His people, and to turn his thoughts inward, 
while he was rendered less liable to distraction by external 
objects. XeipayooyovvTes Be avrov, elegy ay ov el 9 Aafiacncov 
—Leading him by the hand , they brought him to Damascus. 
Thus Paul entered Damascus in a very different manner 
from that which he had planned: instead of haling men 
and women, and committing them to prison, he himself 
is led, humbled, afflicted, and blind, the prisoner of Jesus 

Ver. 9. Mi] fiXeircov—not seeing. Winer directs attention 
to the difference between fir} /3\e7rcov and ov /3\e7rcov, the one 
being a milder form of expression than the other. Had ov 
pXe.'Kwv been used, it would have intimated that Paul had 
become “stone blind;” but this Luke does not say: he uses 
the words fii] /3\e7roov, which express the present blindness 
of one who formerly had his sight, and might be supposed 
to recover it. 2 Kal ov/c ecfrayev ovBe eirtev — and neither did 
eat nor drink. Some suppose that this was a voluntary fast, 
in token of his deep humiliation for the guilt he had con¬ 
tracted ; but it is much more probable that it was the result 
of the concentration of his mind on spiritual objects. Paul 
was so deeply affected by all that he had seen and heard—he 
was then passing through such a great spiritual crisis—that 

1 Kuinoel’s Novi Testamenti Libri Historici , vol. iii. p. 186. 

2 Winer’s Grammar of the New Testament , p. 508. 


for a time he appeared to be entirely withdrawn from the 
external world. 

Ver. 10. 'Avavias. We read only of Ananias in connec¬ 
tion with Paul’s conversion. Some think that he was a native 
of Jerusalem, who on the dispersion of the disciples came 
to Damascus; others that he was a native of Damascus who 
was converted at an earlier period, perhaps on the day of 
Pentecost. Several rationalistic writers (Eichhorn, Kuinoel, 
Heinrichs) suppose a previous acquaintance between Paul 
and Ananias : that they were both deeply interested in each 
other’s welfare, and that both had remarkable dreams; and 
that this accounts for the interview between them. But this 
opinion is completely at variance with the text. Ananias, 
it is evident, only knew Paul by report; and the definite 
fiftming of Ananias (ver. 12) in the vision to Paul shows that 
he was unacquainted with him. According to the traditions 
of the church, Ananias became bishop of Damascus, and there 
suffered martyrdom. 

Ver. 11. ’Eirl rgv pv/ayv rrjv ndXov/LCvyv EvOelav — to the 
street which is called Straight. A particular street with colon¬ 
nades in Damascus is still known by this name ; it runs for 
about two miles through the breadth of the city, from the 
eastern to the western gate. It is called by the inhabitants 
the “ street of the bazaars.” Tradition also points out the 
house of Judas, with whom Paul lodged. 

Vers. 13, 14. Kupte, a/crj/coa curb 7 roWwv nrepl rod avSpos 
rovrov — Lord , I have heard by many concerning this man. 
Ananias knew Paul only by report. Perhaps those who fled 
from Jerusalem to Damascus had informed him of Paul. 
He was also acquainted with the purpose for which Paul 
had come to Damascus. This he may have learned by 
letters from Jerusalem, or Paul’s companions in travel may 
have mentioned it; for it was now three days since they 
arrived at Damascus. The remarkable event which arrested 
their progress—the appearance by the way, and Paul’s blind¬ 
ness—may have been rumoured abroad. Various motives 
have been assigned for the apparent hesitation of Ananias to 
comply at once with the intimation of the Lord. Calvin sug- 



gests fear—that Ananias was afraid to appear before Saul 
the persecutor; but this is evidently erroneous, for Paul was 
represented to him as praying, and blind. Others think that 
it was a feeling of moral indignation that such a violent 
persecutor should receive any marks of the divine favour. 
But the words do not seem to be the expression of reluc¬ 
tance, but of astonishment; as if he had said, u Is it possible 
that I should be sent by my Lord to Saul of Tarsus, the 
violent opponent of the Christians,—Saul, who was coming 
here with power and authority from the chief priests to per¬ 
secute the disciples V’ Tot? ay lots gov — to Thy saints. Chris¬ 
tians are here called, for the first time, saints. Elsewhere 
they are called u disciples,” u brethren,” u believers.” This 
word may allude either to the holiness of their characters, or 
to their being consecrated and set apart from the world-to 
Christ. Too? eirucaXovyevovs to ovoya gov —who invoke Thy 
name: another designation of believers. See note to Acts 
vii. 59. 

Yer. 15. Xtcevos eicXoyrjs — a chosen vessel: an instrument 
for the purpose of carrying the name of Christ, i.e. His 
name as the Messiah and Saviour. ’ Evwttlov edvwv—before 
the Gentiles. The Gentiles are mentioned first, because Paul 
was the apostle of the Gentiles. Ananias could not infer 
from this that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles 
while they continued uncircumcised; for that was a doctrine 
which neither Paul nor any of the apostles yet knew. Kal 
fiaGiXecov—and kings. And this Paul did when he appeared 
before the Roman governors Sergius Paulus, Gallio, Felix, 
and Festus, and the Jewish king Herod Agrippa n. Tlcov 
re 'lapai'fk—and the children of Israel. So far were the Jews 
from being excluded from the sphere of Paul’s ministry, that 
it was his custom to preach the gospel to them first before he 
turned to the Gentiles. 

Yer. 16. Tap — for —giving a reason why he was to be a 
. chosen vessel. He was called to great labours and much 
suffering for the sake of Christ. The more zealous he was 
as a missionary, the greater suffering he would have to 
endure. 'Tiro^/el^co avrcy —/ will show to him — namely, by 



experience. I will cause him to learn in the after course 
of his life; not, u I will reveal to him at this time ” (De 

Ver. 17. 'Irjcrovs, 6 ocf)9eG croi iv rfj oSgj y pp'xpv — Jesus, 
icho appeared to thee in the way as thou earnest. Neither in 
Luke’s narrative of Paul’s conversion, nor in either of the 
accounts of the same occurrence by the apostle himself, is it 
directly stated, in so many words, that he actually saw the 
glorified Jesus. This, however, seems to be implied in 
each of the narratives; at least it is the impression which 
these narratives generally leave on the reader. But what 
can there be only inferred, is elsewhere positively asserted. 
Here Ananias says that Jesus appeared to him by the way; 
and Barnabas affirms that he had seen the Lord in the way, 
and had spoken to Him (Acts ix. 27). But still more direct 
and positive, and at the same time more convincing, are the 
apostle’s own declarations. In enumerating the evidences of 
his apostleship, he affirms that he had seen Jesus Christ: 
ov^l ’ Irjaovv XpLcrrov top Kvptov ypwv edopatca; (1 Cor. ix. 1). 
And so also, in mentioning the appearances of Christ after 
His resurrection, he writes, u Last of all He was seen of me 
also” (1 Cor. xv. 8), where he obviously refers to a real 
corporeal manifestation corresponding with the other mani¬ 
festations mentioned. 1 Christ Himself, then, appeared to 
Paul on his way to Damascus. He saw Him, and heard 
His words. To his companions, however, no such revelation 
was granted: they saw the light from heaven, but not the 
Person who resided in it; they heard, indeed, the words of 
Him who spoke, but they heard without understanding 
them. n\rja6fj 9 Ilvevparos cuylov — and he filled with the 
Holy Ghost. From this it would seem that Paul received 
the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands of Ananias. 
Elsewhere it appears to have been the function of the 
apostles to bestow the miraculous influences of the Spirit; 
but Paul did not receive them through the apostles, because 
he was to occupy an independent position, in order that his 
gospel might be seen not to be of man, but of God. As 
1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte, pp. 201, 202. 



Lange finely observes: a A child of the faith was sent to bind 
the lion of legal fanaticism with the bands of the Lord. No 
Peter or John was necessary to convert and anoint him after 
the Lord had converted him: an unknown disciple was 
sufficient.” 1 

Yer. 18. ’ Att€7T€gclv avrov airo rwv 6(f)0aX/iwv—there fell 
from his eyes as it were scales. Some (Lechler, Hackett) 
suppose that the meaning here is, that Paul, on the recovery 
of his sight, experienced a sensation as if there fell something 
like scales from his eyes. Others (Meyer, Bengel) think 
that some scaly substance had spread over his eyes, and that 
this substance fell off when he received sight. Eichhorn 
attempts to account for this on natural principles; that fast¬ 
ing, joy, and the cold hands of an old man removed the 
amaurosis. To such a strait is this rationalistic critic forced 
to betake himself. As the blindness of Paul was miracu¬ 
lous, so also was his cure. The blindness was an emblem of 
the darkness and prejudice which before veiled his eyes ; and 
the falling off of the scales represented the clearer views of 
divine truths which he should afterwards receive. 

The conversion of Paul is a strong internal proof of the 
divinity of Christianity. As Lord Lyttleton observes : “ The 
conversion and apostleship of Paul alone, duly considered, is 
of itself a demonstration sufficient to prove Christianity to 
be a divine revelation.” The change which came over him 
was thorough and universal: the zealous persecutor became 
the equally zealous missionary ; the Jewish fanatic was 
changed into the Christian philanthropist. No conceivable 
motives of personal interest—no desire of fame, riches, power, 
ease—can possibly account for the change. He himself tells 
us that it arose from a miraculous appearance of Christ. 
The narrative of this event cannot possibly be accounted for 
on the hypothesis that it was either a natural occurrence or 
a vision. No mythical embellishment can remove the fact 
of at least Paul’s own belief in the appearance of Christ to 
him. No fanaticism in Paul can account for his being 
deceived by a mere delusion, and that more especially as 
1 Lange’s Apostolisches Zeitalter , vol. ii. p. 121. 


lie was accompanied by others. The only solution possible 
is, that the event really took place ; that Jesus of Nazareth, 
the Risen One, revealed Himself as the Messiah to Paul 
when on his way to Damascus ; and that this revolutionized 
his entire character and conduct, and converted him from 
Saul the Jewish persecutor, to Paul the champion of the 
Christian faith. 




19 And lie was certain days with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And 
immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that He is the Son of 
God. 21 But all who heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he 
who destroyed in Jerusalem those invoking this name, and came hither 
for this purpose, that he might bring them bound to the chief priests ? 
22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews 
who dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. 23 But when 
many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired to kill him: 24 But their 

plot was known to Saul: and they watched the gates day and night to 
kill him. 25 Then his disciples, having taken him by night, let him 
down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. 

26 And when he was come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join him¬ 
self to the disciples : and all were afraid of him, not believing that he 
was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the 
apostles, and related to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, 
and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly in 
Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them coming in 
and going out at Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 
29 And he spoke and disputed with the Hellenists : but they went 
about to slay him. 30 And the brethren having learned it, brought him 
down to Csesarea, and sent him to Tarsus. 


Yer. 19. O ^avXos, the commencement of a church lesson, 
is wanting in A, B, 0, E, N, and rejected by recent critics. 
Yer. 20. Instead of Xpcarov, A, B, C, E, N read T^crow, 
which is undoubtedly the true reading. Yer. 25. The textus 
receptus has avrov oi paOrjrai, the reading of E, G, H ;• 
whereas A, B, C, X read oi paOrjral avrov : this latter read¬ 
ing has been preferred by Tischendorf, Lachmann, and 
Meyer; on the contrary, Alford and De Wette prefer the 
former. (See Exegetical Remarks.) Yer. 26. f O 




found in G, H, and omitted in A, B, C, N, is rejected by 
all recent critics. Instead of et? f lep ., found in A, B, C, N, 
Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Meyer read iv 'Iep., found in 
E, G, H. Yer. 28. Here, on the contrary, the reading et? 
'Iep.j found in A, B, C, E, G, N, is best attested. KvpLov 
’Igaov is the reading of G, II; whereas Kvplov alone is 
found in A, B, E, N, and is the reading adopted by Tischen- 
dorf and Lachmann. 


Yer. 19. 'Hyepas tlvcis — certain days. Paul, after his 
conversion, associated with the disciples. Without doubt, 
Ananias would introduce him to them ; he acted the same 
part at Damascus which Barnabas afterwards did at Jeru¬ 
salem. By a certain days” are here meant a few days—a 
short period. 

Yer. 20. Kai evdeoos iv Tat? avvayco'yais iiojpvcrcrev — and 
immediately he preached in the synagogues. Paul, immediately 
after his conversion, commenced to preach with the zeal of 
a new convert. He appeared in the synagogues, but for a 
different purpose from that for which he came up from 
Jerusalem : not to deliver his letters of authority from the 
chief priest, and to arrest the Christians ; but to proclaim 
that faith which he came to Damascus to destroy. Tov 
’Irjcrovv, otl outo? eanv o vlos tov Oeov — Jesus, that He is the 
Son of God. ’Irjcrovv, and not Xpiarov, is the correct reading 
(see Critical Note)—that the individual person Jesus was 
the Son of God. The Jews did not deny that Christ was 
the Son of God ; but what they strongly contested was, that 
Jesus of Nazareth was so. This is the only passage in the 
Acts where the phrase o tdo? tov Seov occurs. It was one 
of the Messianic titles used by the Jews ; so that the phrases 
“ Jesus is the Son of God” (ver. 20), and “ Jesus is the 
Christ” (ver. 22), are equivalent. Thus Nathanael expresses 
his belief in the Messialiship of Jesus in these terms : u Babbi, 
Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel” 
(John i. 49). And Peter in his confession says, u Thou art 



the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. xvi. 16); 
which in the other Gospels is merely, “ Thou art the 

Ver. 21. ’E^Laravro Se navres—all who heard him were 
astonished. Paul’s preaching Jesus as the Christ would 
doubtless create great astonishment in the synagogues. The 
report of his coming to Damascus as a persecutor of the 
Christians had preceded him ; but instead of putting his 
letters of authority into execution, he had been transformed 
from a persecutor to a Christian evangelist, and publicly 
avowed his belief in the Messiahship of Jesus. The astonish¬ 
ment here spoken of was that of the unbelieving Jews, not 
that of the Christians, who had already been informed of 
Paul’s conversion. Ton? en TucaXovgevovs to ovofia tovto — 
those invoicing this name . This name , namely Jesus: those 
who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. 

Ver. 22. otl ovros eanv 6 XpiaTOS — proving 

that this was the Christ. At first Paul merely announced 
that Jesus was the Messiah ; but as he became bolder, he 
commenced to reason with the Jews: he proved from the 
correspondence between the life of Jesus and the prophecies 
of the Old Testament, that He was the Messiah. 

/3a£W, joining together, putting things together ; hence 
proving, demonstrating. His past knowledge of the Scrip¬ 
tures, having now found the true key to their interpretation, 
peculiarly fitted him to be a skilful disputant. As Chry¬ 
sostom observes : u They thought they were rid of disputa¬ 
tion in such matters in getting rid of Stephen ; but they 
found another more vehement than Stephen.” 1 

Ver. 23. 'H/iepai Itcavai — many days. According to Paul’s 
own statement, he went immediately after his conversion to 
Arabia, and returned to Damascus ; and it was not until 
three years after, that he went to Jerusalem (Gal. i. 16, 17). 
By “ many days,” then, are here meant these three years, 
spent partly in Arabia, and partly in Damascus. Of course, 
unless we had been elsewhere informed to the contrary, we 
should naturally have concluded that Paul had never left 
1 Chrysostom’s Homilies on the Acts , Horn. xx. 


Damascus. 'I/cavos is often used to signify great, consider¬ 
able ; and hence, in connection with xpovos or ypbipai, it 
signifies a long period. We have a similar expression in the 
Old Testament (in the Hebrew, not in the Septuagint), 
where 66 many days” are actually used to denote three years: 
u And Shimei dwelt in Jerusalem many days (D'2n D'BJ). 
And it came to pass at the end of three years , that two of the 
servants of Shimei ran away” (1 Kings ii. 38, 39). 1 

Ver. 24. 17 aperypovvro to? 7ruXa? —they watched the gates; 
i.e. the unbelieving Jews did so. Paul, alluding to this oc- 
currence, says : u In Damascus, the governor (ethnarch) 
under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with 
a garrison, desirous to apprehend me” (2 Cor. xi. 32). It 
is not difficult to reconcile this difference between the ac¬ 
counts. 2 Either the Jews, by the permission of the ethnarch, 
watched the gates themselves; or, at their instigation, the 
ethnarch employed his soldiers to do so. Lewin supposes 
that by the ethnarch is meant a Jewish magistrate appointed 
by Aretas. Anger thinks that an officer of Aretas happened 
accidentally to be present in Damascus, and that he used 
his influence with the Roman government on behalf of the 

Jews; but this is at variance with 2 Cor. xi. 32, which 
asserts that the ethnarch kept the cfty with a garrison. 
Others suppose that Aretas in Corinthians is not the Ara¬ 
bian king of that name, but the name of the ethnarch, and 
read the passage thus, u The ethnarch Areta of the king,” 
i.e. of the Roman emperor; but ’Apera is the genitive of 
’Apera?, the name of the kings of Arabia Nabataea, and the 
Roman emperor is never called in Scripture (BaaCkev ?, but 

Still, however, the fact of the occupation of Damascus is a 
historical difficulty. There is no mention of it in Josephus, or 
elsewhere in history. Damascus was under the Roman govern¬ 
ment, having been added to the empire by Pompey. Aretas, 

1 See Lange’s Bibelwerk: Apostelgescliichte , p. 166. 

2 And yet, as Paley observes, there is such a difference between the 
two accounts as renders it utterly improbable that the one should be 
derived from the other. 



on the other hand, was the king of Arabia Nabatsea (whose 
capital was Petra), and not of Damascus (Strabo, xvi. 4. 24). 
Aretas seems to have been the common name of a dynasty 
who ruled over Petra from the time of the Seleucidse until 
Trajan, when Arabia Nabatsea was incorporated with the 
Roman empire ; under the emperors, these Arabian princes 
were not independent, but subject to the Romans. The 
Aretas in question was the father-in-law of Herod Antipas, 
the tetrarch of Galilee. The difficulty is, how this Aretas 
could have obtained possession of Damascus, a Roman city. 

Various attempts have been made at a solution. Josephus 
informs us that Aretas and Herod Antipas quarrelled because 
Herod had repudiated his wife, the daughter of Aretas, and 
had married his own niece Herodias, the wife of Herod 
Philip. This quarrel had been increased by some disputes 
about the boundaries of their respective territories ; in con¬ 
sequence of which a war ensued, in which Herod was com¬ 
pletely defeated, and his army cut in pieces. Herod applied 
to Tiberius for assistance, who ordered Vitellius, the governor 
of Syria (father of the Emperor Vitellius), to make war on 
Aretas, and to take him either dead or alive. Upon this 
Vitellius marched at the head of two legions from Antioch ; 
but when he had reached Jerusalem, he heard of the death 
of Tiberius and the succession of Caligula; and being, as 
Josephus informs us (Ant. xviii. 4. 5), on bad terms with 
Herod, he made this a pretext for withdrawing his army, and 
putting them into winter quarters, saying that he had not now' 
the same authority for carrying on the war (Ant. xviii. 5. 1-3). 
It has been accordingly supposed that Aretas, on the with¬ 
drawal of the army of Vitellius, seized upon and occupied 
Damascus. But it is extremely improbable that Vitellius, 
who is described by Tacitus as an able governor (Ann. vi. 
32), would suffer such a petty and dependent prince as 
Aretas to take possession of so important a city. The opinion 
advanced by Wieseler, that Aretas received Damascus as a 
free gift from Caligula, is more probable. On the succession 
of Caligula, there must have been a complete change of 
policy : Herod Antipas was in disgrace, and his rival Herod 



Agrippa was in favour. Josephus also tells us that Vitellius, 
on account of a personal quarrel, took the opportunity of 
avenging himself on Herod Antipas. u Vitellius,” he ob¬ 
serves, “ concealed his wrath against Herod until he could be 
revenged on him, which he was enabled afterwards to effect 
when Caius succeeded to the government” (Ant. xviii. 4. 5). 
Hence it is extremely probable that the Romans changed 
sides in the quarrel. The anger of Tiberius against Aretas 
rested on his personal relations to Herod Antipas; hut under 
Caligula, Herod was out of favour, and was soon after 
banished to Lyons, and his tetrarchy given to his rival 
Herod Agrippa. Wieseler accordingly supposes that the 
Emperor Caligula, on the adjustment of the Asiatic pro¬ 
vinces, bestowed on Aretas the government of Damascus, 
subject to the Romans. This is the more probable, as Da¬ 
mascus bordered on his kingdom, and was formerly possessed 
by his ancestors. It is some confirmation of this opinion, 
that although there are Damascene coins of Augustus and 
Tiberius, and then of Nero and his successors, there are 
none belonging to the intervening emperors, Caligula and 
Claudius (Eckhel). This may indeed be accidental; but it 
follows, at least, that it cannot be proved that Damascus 
under these emperors was Roman. Wieseler also lays stress 
on the fact that there is a coin of Damascus with the inscrip¬ 
tion {3curL\ea)s ’ Aperov cpiXeWrjvos (two such coins are in the 
British Museum) ; but the opinion of Eckhel is now gene¬ 
rally assented to, that this coin belonged to an earlier Aretas, 
who was contemporary with the later Seleucidse and it 
would seem from Josephus, that the kings of Arabia Naba¬ 
taea then possessed Damascus (Ant. xiii. 13. 3; B. J. i. 6. 2). 
If the supposition of Wieseler is correct, the occupation of 
Damascus by Aretas would take place during the reign of 
Caligula (a.d. 37-40). This, however, gives no certain data 
by which the chronology of the life of Paul might be fixed, 
as it is altogether uncertain in what year this occupation 
took place. 2 

1 Eckhel, Doctrina numorum veterum , vol. iii. p. 330. 

2 For the discussion of this interesting subject, the occupation of 



v er. 25. 01 gaOrjral avrov — His disciples. (See Critical 
Note.) This is the reading adopted by Tischendorf, as it 
is, upon the whole, better supported, and more difficult. If 
correct, the allusion is to those Jews whom Paul converted 
at Damascus. De Wette, however, observes : u Evidently 
avrov is false ; for of Paul’s disciples there can be no men¬ 
tion.” 1 Aid tou Tefyovs fcaOrj/cav — let him down through the 
wall. This entirely agrees with the account which Paul 
himself gives of his escape : “ And through a window in a 
basket was I let down by the wall” (2 Cor. xi. 33). In both 
passages, Sid rod refyovs are the words employed. This may 
signify through a window of a house overhanging the wall ; 
and, as Conybeare and Howson tell us, there are such houses 
in the wall of Damascus at the present day. Or, as Hackett 
supposes, it may have been through a window in the external 
face of the wall, opening to houses in the inside of the city. 
Such houses, he says, he saw to the left of the gate, on the east 
side of Damascus. 2 Similar modes of escape are mentioned 
in the Old Testament. Pahab let down the spies through the 
window, for her house was upon the town wall (Josh. ii. 15) ; 
and David, by means of his wife Michal, made his escape 
in a similar manner (1 Sam. xix. 12). In both instances 
the words Sid rrjs OvplSos are employed in the Septuagint, 
—the same expression which occurs in Paul’s account of his 
escape ( Sid OvplSo ?, 2 Cor. xi. 33). Tradition fixes on the 
south side of the city as the place of Paul’s escape. 

We have reserved until now the consideration of Paul’s 
journey to Arabia. Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, 
speaking of the time of his conversion, says : u Neither went 
I up to Jerusalem to them who were apostles before me ; 
but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. 

Damascus by Aretas, see Wieseler’s Chronologie, pp. 167-173; Conybeare 
and Howson’s St. Paul , vol. i. ch. iii. ; Winer’s Worterbuch , article 
Aretas; Alford’s Greek Testament , Acts ix. 24 ; Lewin’s St. Paul , vol. i. 
pp. 68-70; and Kuinoel’s Libri Historici , vol. iii. pp. 161, 162. 

1 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 90. 

2 Hackett on the Acts , vol. i. p. 189 ; Conybeare and Howson, vol. i. 
pp. 124, 125. 

VOL. I. Y 



Then, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem” (Gal. i. 
17, 18). In the narrative of Luke there is no mention of 
this journey to Arabia, and no intimation that three years 
intervened between Paul’s conversion and his visit to Jeru¬ 
salem ; although, with regard to the latter point, 17 /ikpai bcaval 
may extend over a space of time as large. The entire omis¬ 
sion of the journey may at first sight seem strange, and an 
apparent discrepancy with the account which Paul himself 
gives ; but we must remember that no objection can be drawn 
from mere silence, especially if this silence can be in some 
measure accounted for. 

The object of Paul’s visit to Arabia, immediately after his 
conversion, has been variously considered. Some suppose 
that all that is meant is, that he made Damascus—which, 
according to their opinion, then belonged to the kingdom of 
Aretas, king of Arabia—a centre from which he went to 
preach the gospel in the neighbouring districts. This would 
certainly remove the difficulty occasioned by the entire omis¬ 
sion of this journey in the Acts; but it does not agree with 
the account of the apostle, who expressly says that he left 
Damascus, and after a residence in Arabia returned to it. 
Neander supposes that he spent the three years in preaching 
the gospel in Arabia; for otherwise we would have read 
eprj/iov ’A pa^las. 1 The common opinion is by far the most 
probable, that he retired for meditation and prayer. The great 
change which had come over him would certainly urge him 
to retirement, in order to meditate upon this great crisis in his 
life. He was now about to enter upon his great work as the 
apostle of Jesus Christ, and he must have felt the import¬ 
ance of preparing for it. These three years which Paul 
spent in Arabia, no doubt receiving revelations from above, 
were similar to tliose three years which the other apostles 
spent in immediate intercourse with the Lord. And this 
retirement has also its counterpart in the life of Christ Him¬ 
self, who, before the commencement of His ministry, with¬ 
drew into the wilderness to pray. 

But the great point of present consideration is, How is this 
1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 91. 



journey to Arabia to be reconciled with the narrative of 
Luke? In what part of this narrative is it to be inserted? 
Very different opinions have been formed. Some (Baur, 
Zeller, De Wette) suppose that there is here an inexplicable 
discrepancy; that in the narrative given us by Luke of 
Paul’s ministry at Damascus, there is no room for the inser¬ 
tion of a three years’ residence in Arabia. 1 But this is a 
violent solution, which ought not to be resorted to until all 
means of reconciliation have failed. Bishop Pearson places 
it before the rj/aepas rtm? of ver. 19; 2 3 but the words, “and 
he was certain days with the disciples at Damascus,” cannot 
be otherwise understood than that he continued after his 
conversion for some time with the disciples. Others (Hein¬ 
richs, Michaelis, Ewald, Lardner) place it after u the certain 
days” of ver. 19, but before he preached in the synagogues, 
as mentioned in ver. 20; but this supposition is contradicted 
by the word evdecos, which represents Paul as immediately 
after his conversion proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God. 
Others (Olshausen, Kuinoel, Ebrard) place this journey and 
the return to Damascus after his escape from that city as 
mentioned in ver. 25. But many considerations are opposed 
to this: in Paul’s account, he states that he retired imme¬ 
diately (evdew) after his conversion (Gal. i. 16) ; in the 
Acts we are informed that, after his escape, he went up to 
Jerusalem; nor is it at all probable that he would return 
to Damascus after the Jews had sought his life, and he had 
made his escape from it. Others (Lange, Alford) find the 
point of connection between Luke’s narrative and Paul’s 
account of his journey in the words fiaXkov iveSwapLovro 
—increased the more in strength —in ver. 22. 3 But these 
words form a continuous narrative with the preceding; and 
imply what is otherwise most natural, that Paul, by continu¬ 
ing to preach, had gained additional courage and confidence ; 
and certainly it is far-fetched to discover in these words any 

1 Zeller’s Apostelgeschiclite , p. 202. 

2 Pearson’s Annals of St. Paul , pp. 80, 81. 

3 Alford’s Greek Testament , on Acts ix. 22 ; Lange’s Apostolisclies Zeit- 
alter , vol. ii. p. 122. 



reference to a journey to Arabia. Others (Lechler, Meyer, 
Neander, Paley, Wordsworth, Hackett) fix upon the ryiepac 
'ucavcLL, the many days (ver. 23), as the space of time for the 
insertion of the Arabian journey. And this appears to be 
the correct solution. It is said in the Acts, u And when 
many days were fulfilled.” Now during this long period 
Paul may have gone to Arabia. De Wette’s objection, that 
Paul would then have gone out of the way of his enemies, 
so that their designs against him could never have taken 
place, is without weight; for, according to this supposition, 
these hostile designs did not occur until after Paul’s return 
to Damascus from Arabia. 1 It is also to be observed that, 
on the one hand, Luke does not assert that u the many days” 
were all spent in Damascus; nor does Paul state that he 
resided for three years in Arabia, but merely that it was 
after the lapse of three years that he went up to Jerusalem. 
According to this opinion, then, u the many days” were 
spent partly in Arabia and partly in Damascus. 

The following appears to have been the series of events :— 
Paul, immediately after his conversion, spent a few days with 
the disciples at Damascus, preaching Christ in the synagogues 
of the Jews (vers. 19-22). Soon afterwards, urged by an 
internal impulse, he went to Arabia, where he spent two or 
three years in retirement, preparing himself for his great 
mission (Gal. i. 15-17). Then he returned to Damascus, 
and spent some time longer there preaching the gospel (ver. 
23). Afterwards, in consequence of a plot of the Jews 
against his life, he effected his escape, and betook himself to 
Jerusalem (vers. 24, 25). It is probable that the greater 
part of the three years was spent, not in Damascus, but in 
Arabia; for it is to his residence in Arabia that Paul him¬ 
self gives the greater prominence. Damascus is only inci¬ 
dentally mentioned by him. This also, as we shall see, best 
accounts for the cold reception which he received from the 
disciples in Jerusalem. 

No explanation, however, has been given of the omission 
of the Arabian journey by Luke. Most critics suppose that 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 209. 



he was ignorant of it, there being no mention of it in the 
sources from which he drew his history, and that all that he 
knew was that an interval had elapsed between Paul’s conver¬ 
sion and his visit to Jerusalem. But it is not to be supposed 
that the companion of the apostle could be ignorant of such 
an important fact in his life : his conversion must often have 
been a frequent topic of conversation between them. The 
probable reason of the omission is, that the journey to Arabia 
did not lie within the scope of Luke’s history. The Acts 
is not a biography of Paul, and therefore many important 
events in his life may well be omitted, without supposing any 
ignorance on the part of the historian. Besides, as the retire¬ 
ment of the apostle was most probably spent in prayer and 
meditation, and not in preaching the gospel, it evidently 
formed no part of his missionary labours, which Luke chiefly 
describes. Paul, in Arabia, was not an evangelist, but a 
student of theology; not a dispenser, but a receiver of reve¬ 
lations. He who formerly at Jerusalem sat at the feet of 
Gamaliel, in Arabia sat as a student at the feet of Jesus ; 
and the Acts records not his studies, but his labours : it 
relates public events which are history, not private events 
which are biography. 

Ver. 26. IlapayevopLevos ev f IepovcraXgpi—and having 
come to Jerusalem. This was Paul’s first visit, after his con¬ 
version, to Jerusalem. It occurred three years after the 
appearance of Christ to him, and the purpose for which he 
made this visit was to see Peter. u After three years, I 
went up to Jerusalem to see Peter” (Gal. i. 18). Driven 
from Damascus, he naturally betook himself to the apostles 
and the first disciples. Kal irdvres etyofiovvTo avrov , etc.— 
And all were afraid of him , not believing that he ivas a disciple. 
Here it must be confessed there is no slight difficulty. How 
can we reconcile this incredulity on the part of the disciples 
with Paul’s miraculous conversion, and with his being a 
believer for three years ? “ The first persecution of the 

primitive church,” observes Zeller, u broke out not only in 
Jerusalem, but throughout Palestine, and beyond it, so that 
the disciples were filled with fear. At the head of the per- 



secutors is Saul. He is in the act of carrying on the per¬ 
secution even in Damascus, when all at once he steps to the 
side of his opponents, publicly declaring himself in the syna¬ 
gogues of Damascus for that religion whose deadly foe he 
had hitherto been, and confounding the Jews with proofs of 
the divine mission of Jesus. Who will believe that such an 
important and extraordinary occurrence could possibly have 
remained unknown for three years to the Christians of Jeru¬ 
salem ; that from the neighbouring city of Damascus, wdiere 
there was a numerous Jewish population, and constant inter¬ 
course with Jerusalem, no information of it had reached 
Jerusalem : or if such information be supposed, that the 
appearance of Paul at Damascus had not been able to allay 
every suspicion of the sincerity of his conversion ? ” 1 Neander 
accounts for this want of information on the ground that 
Saul had not at this time attained to much importance, and 
that in consequence of the war with King Aretas the com¬ 
munication between Damascus and Jerusalem was partially 
interrupted. 2 But Paul was well known to the primitive 
church as a persecutor, and the war with Aretas was in all 
probability long before this concluded. The three years’ 
retirement of Paul in Arabia appears to be the solution of 
this difficulty. Paul after his conversion retired, and was 
unheard of for three years. This would occasion many 
doubts as to its reality. The impression which the event at 
first made would have been much diminished by time, and 
fear that Paul had a^ain fallen back would arise. And 
when we remember that he was not only a persecutor, but 
an inquisitor, we need not he surprised that the disciples 
at Jerusalem received him with some degree of suspicion. 
It is also to be observed that Luke does not affirm that the 
disciples had never heard of his conversion, but only that 
they did not believe that he was a disciple : they doubted the 
sincerity of his conversion. The more they had suffered 
from him as a persecutor, the more incredulous would they 
be inclined to be. As Hackett puts it, u the sudden appear- 

1 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , pp. 203, 204. 

2 Neander’s Planting , vol. ii. p. 98. 



ance of Voltaire in a circle of Christians, claiming to be one 
of them, would have been something like this return of Saul 
to Jerusalem as a professed disciple.” 1 And to make tlie 
case still more parallel, we must conceive Voltaire a perse¬ 
cutor, and appearing among those whom he had persecuted. 

Ver. 27. Bapvd/3a ? 3c eiriXafidgLevos avrov — but Barnabas 
took him. Barnabas, already a chief man among the 
brethren, introduced him to the apostles. Meyer and others 
suppose a previous acquaintance between Barnabas and Paul. 
u It is probable,” observes Howson, “ that Barnabas and 
Saul were acquainted with each other before. Cyprus is 
within a few hours’ sail of Cilicia. The schools of Tarsus 
may naturally have attracted one who, though a Levite, 
was a Hellenist; and there the friendship may have begun 
which lasted through many vicissitudes, till it was rudely in¬ 
terrupted in the dispute at Antioch.” 2 Such a supposition, 
however, is without support in the text, and is unnecessary 
to account for the interest of Barnabas. "Hyayev i rpo? tou? 
di7 wto\ou?— brought him to the apostles. Here also there is 
an apparent difference between this narrative of Luke and 
the apostle’s own statement. Paul mentions that on this 
visit to Jerusalem he saw none of the apostles save Peter, 
and James the Lord’s brother (Gal. i. 18, 19). Not only 
Baur and Zeller maintain that Luke was here in error, 
but also such critics as Neander, Meyer, and Lekebusch. 5 
But the difference between these accounts is imaginary. 
If Barnabas brought Paul to two of the apostles, Peter 
and James, probably the only apostles then at Jerusalem, 
Luke was entitled to use the expression gyayev TTpos 
tol >9 aTroGToXovs. The one account explains and modifies 
the other. Kal Scpygaaro avTois — and declared to them. 
Not Paul himself (Beza), but Barnabas, delivered this 
account of the apostle’s conversion. 'Ev tm ovo^aTi rod 

1 Hackett on the Acts , vol. i. p. 190. 

2 Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul , vol. i. p. 127. 

3 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 205; Neander’s Planting , vol. ii. p. 96 ; 
Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 210 ; Lekebusch’s Composition der Apostel¬ 
geschichte, p. 283. 



’ Irjcrov — in the name of Jesus : the great subject of his 
preaching—the centre truth on which he insisted: the con¬ 
fession and publication of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of 

Yer. 28. The time which Paul remained at Jerusalem 
was short, being, as he himself tells us, only fifteen days 
(Gal. i. 18). Zeller takes exception to this, and objects 
that, according to Luke, a much longer residence is presup¬ 
posed : Paul preaches in the synagogues, disputes with the 
Hellenists, and raises against him a host of opponents. But 
there is not one word in the Acts from which a longer 
residence can be inferred; and certainly all that happened 
does not necessarily require a duration of more than fifteen 
days. The Jews would be at once excited against Paul, 
whom they must have regarded as a renegade, and bitterly 
hated; and therefore it is not surprising that they should 
almost immediately have formed plans for his murder. 

Yer. 29. 'EXaXec re teal Gvve'Cfjrei 777309 rovs 'EWrjviards — 
and he spoke and disputed with the Hellenists. The Hellenists 
. are those Jews who used the Greek language. (See note to 
Acts vi. 1.) Paul would be naturally led to dispute with the 
Hellenists, as he was himself a Hellenist. Perhaps in the 
same synagogue of Cilicia where he formerly disputed with 
Stephen, he now disputed with his former allies. He might 
think that the fact of his conversion would have weight with 
them, and that the miraculous event which happened to him 
would convince them also that Jesus was the true Messiah. 
He wished in some measure to repair the injury he had 

Yer. 30. ’E'lrL'yvovres Se 01 dSeXcpoly nari^a^ov avrov eis 
Kaccrdpeiav — And the brethren having learned it , brought him 
down to Caesarea. According to Luke, Paul departed from 
Jerusalem in consequence of the plots of the Jews to kill 
him. He himself assigns a different motive—that he de¬ 
parted in consequence of a divine revelation: u And it 
came to pass, that when I was come again to Jerusalem, 
even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and 
saw Him saying to me, Make haste, and get thee quickly 



out of Jerusalem : for they will not receive thy testimony 
concerning me” (Acts xxii. 17, 18). But these two motives 
do not exclude each other. Paul, notwithstanding the 
opposition and machinations of the Jews, may have felt de¬ 
sirous to remain: he had a warm heart toward his brethren 
according to the flesh ; he was eager for their conversion ; 
and it required a revelation from Christ Himself to cause 
him to comply with the importunity of his friends, and to 
depart. Luke mentions the external reason; Paul the 
internal motive. HA KcucrdpeLav — to Ccrsarea. Paul says 
that after he departed from Jerusalem, he came into the 
regions of Syria and Cilicia. Some (Calovius, Doddridge, 
Du Veil, and Olshausen) suppose that Caesarea Philippi is 
here meant, because that was the most direct road between 
Jerusalem and Syria. But the word Caesarea by itself 
evidently points to the much more celebrated city on the 
Mediterranean, the residence of the Boman procurators— 
Caesarea Palestinae. And as to his journey through Syria, 
this might easily have taken place, either by his proceeding 
from Caesarea to Tarsus by land, or by sailing to Tyre or 
Sidon or any of the Phoenician ports, or perhaps at once to 
Seleucia, the port of Antioch, and then by land from Antioch 
to Tarsus. 

HA Tapaov — to Tarsus. This city must always be in¬ 
teresting to Christians, as the birthplace of Paul—“ a Jew 
of Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city ” 
(Acts xxi. 39). Situated on a fertile plain on the banks of 
the Cydnus, which flowed through it, it was then a populous 
city, and the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia. 
Tarsus was celebrated for its schools, and rivalled the re¬ 
nowned universities of Athens and Alexandria. “ They of 
Tarsus,” observes Strabo, “ are much addicted to the study 
of philosophy, and excel Athens and Alexandria, and every 
other place where there are schools of philosophy. And the 
reason of this is, because at Tarsus both the natives and 
strangers are fond of learning: whereas in the other cities, 
except Alexandria, many come to them; but you will see 
few of the natives either going abroad or caring to study at 


home.” And he adds: u Rome is best able to inform us 
what number of learned men this city has produced, for it 
is filled with persons from Tarsus and Alexandria ” (Strabo, 
xiv. 5. 12-15). 1 In all probability, it was at these celebrated 
schools that Paul received his first instructions. Tarsus 
obtained from Antony the privilege of a free city,—that is, 
although belonging to the Roman empire, it enjoyed the 
right of being governed by its own laws, and of choosing its 
own magistrates; but it is a mistake to suppose that this 
privilege constituted its inhabitants Roman citizens. It was 
not until several years afterwards that it became a Roman 
colony. It is now a poor and dirty town, known by the 
name Tarsous, though it has still a population of 30,000. 2 

Paul in Tarsus was now in his native city. He had 
gone forth from it a Pharisee, a zealot for Judaism; he had 
now returned a Christian, and was about to commence his 
apostolic career. He did not spend his time here, as in 
Arabia, in retirement, but in preaching the gospel. He 
himself tells us that he preached Christ in Cilicia, of which 
Tarsps is the capital; and doubtless the churches of Cilicia, 
afterwards mentioned (Acts xv. 23, 41), owe their origin 
to this residence of Paul in his native country. Here, in 
all probability, he resided for about two years; after which 
he was sought out by the same Barnabas who had intro¬ 
duced him to the apostles, and was called to engage in a far 
wider sphere of labour—as the apostle, not of Cilicia merely, 
but of the whole Gentile world. 

1 Strabo makes frequent mention of the gymnasium for young men at 
Tarsus. Perhaps it was from the games exhibited in this gymnasium of 
his native city, that Paul derived his numerous illustrations drawn from 
the Greek games. 

2 Winer’s Realworterbuch; Conybeare and Howson, vol. i. pp. 27 and 


THE MIRACLES OF PETER.— Acts ix. 31-43. 

31 Then the church had peace throughout all Judea, and Galilee, 
and Samaria, being edified and walking in the fear of the Lord, and by 
the exhortation of the Holy Ghost, was multiplied. 32 And it came to 
pass that Peter, passing through all places, came down also to the saints 
who dwelt at Lydda. 33 And he found there a certain man named 
iEneas, who had kept his bed for eight years, and was paralyzed. 
34 And Peter said to him, iEneas, Jesus the Christ makes thee whole; 
arise, and make thy bed. And immediately he arose. 35 And all the 
inhabitants of Lydda and Saron saw him, and they turned to the Lord. 

36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, who 
by interpretation is called Dorcas : she was full of good works and alms 
which she did. 37 And it came to pass in those days, that she fell sick, 
and died: whom when they had washed, they laid in an upper chamber. 
38 And as Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples having heard that Peter 
was there, sent two men to him, exhorting him, Delay not to come to 
us. 39 Then Peter arose, and went with them. When he was come, 
they brought him to the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by 
him weeping, and showing tunics and garments which Dorcas made while 
she was with them. 40 But Peter, having put them all out, kneeled 
down and prayed; and having turned to the body, he said, Tabitha, 
arise. And she opened her eyes ; and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41 And 
having given her his hand, he raised her up; and when he had called 
the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it was known 
throughout all Joppa; and many believed on the Lord. 43 And it came 
to pass, that he remained many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner. 


Ver. 31. The singular y . . . eK/c\yaia . . . elyev . . . 
oirco$o/jLov/Aevr] /cal Tropevo/jLevy . . . lirkyOvveTo^ is the reading 
of A, B, C, 5s', and is preferred by all the recent critics to the 
plural, the reading of the textus receptus, which is found in 
E, G, H. Ver. 38. My o/cvyar /? $l€\0€lv e &)5 y/jLwv is found 
in A, B, C, E ? N, and is preferred by all the recent critics 




to fir) ofcvrjcrai BieXdeiv ears avrwv of the textus receptus , found 
in G, H. 


Ver. 31. 'H fiev ovv efocXifala — Then the church. The 
church (see Critical Note) is here mentioned in its unity, as 
embracing all the different churches throughout the three 
provinces of Palestine. u The external bond of this unity 
was the apostles; the internal, the Holy Ghost: Christ, the 
one head : the forms of the union were as yet undeveloped” 
(Meyer). Ka6 ’ oXt )? rrj<; TovSalas, koX TakiXalas, teal Xapa- 
pelas — throughout all Judea , arid Galilee , and Samaria —the 
three districts into which Palestine was at that time divided. 
We have been already informed of the planting of the 
church in Samaria by Philip the evangelist; the dispersed 
preached the gospel in Judea, and doubtless established 
churches there (Acts viii. 1) ; and in Galilee, the chief scene 
of Christ’s ministry, and the residence of the apostles, the 
disciples were numerous from the beginning — it was the 
cradle of Christianity. 

El^ev elpi)vr)v—had peace; i.e. rest from the persecution 
which arose after the death of Stephen. The time when 
this peace occurred was probably before Paul came to Jeru¬ 
salem, and during his three years’ residence in Damascus and 
Arabia; for there is no reason to believe that the persecution 
lasted three years. 1 According to this view, the account of 
Paul’s visit to Jerusalem (vers. 26--30) is given by anticipa¬ 
tion. Different causes have been assigned for this cessation of 
the persecution. The common opinion is, that it was caused 
by the conversion of Paul, the chief persecutor having turned 
a Christian. But there is no reason to suppose that Paul’s 
influence was so great: he was only an instrument in the 
hands of the Sanhedrim. Calvin thinks that the peace is to 
be ascribed to the departure of Paul from Jerusalem; 2 that 
the sight of him provoked the fury of his enemies, and that 

1 The peace extended from the year 38 to the year 44. 

2 Calvin on Acts ix. 31. 



on liis departure tlieir fury was quieted. But the peace, 
here referred to, is not merely the peace of the church in 
Jerusalem, hut of the church throughout Palestine. De 
Wette, with greater probability, supposes that it was occa¬ 
sioned by the general alarm among the Jews, when Petro- 
nius, the proconsul of Syria, attempted to introduce the 
statue of Caligula into the temple. 1 This occasioned great 
commotion in Palestine, so that there was imminent danger 
of a war with the Romans. The Jews would then be too 
much engrossed by their opposition to it, to attend to other 
matters. The calamity was only averted by the opportune 
death of Caligula (Joseph. Ant. xviii. 8. 2-5 ; Bell. Jud. 
ii. 10. 1). 

OlrcoSo/jLov/xevT]—being edified; i.e. made progress in Chris¬ 
tian perfection, according to the usual meaning of the word 
in the New Testament: not “increased in numbers” (Kuinoel), 
for that idea is expressed in the succeeding clause. Kal 
rropevo/ievr) tw (pofiw rod Kvpiou — mid walking in the fear of 
the Lord; i.e. leading a holy life. Christianity proved its 
efficacy by the holiness of the lives of its disciples. Kal rg 
rrapaicXrjcrei rod dylov Uvevparos inXyOvvero — and by the 
exhortation of the Holy Ghost, was multiplied. This difficult 
clause has been variously translated. Some (Beza, Rosen- 
miiller), as in our English version, connect it with 7 ropevopievg 
—“ walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of 
the Holy Ghost; ” but it rather appears to be connected 
with 67r\7]duvero, for which it assigns the reason. Some 
(Beza, Calvin) render 7 rapa/cXycrec comfort , a meaning which 
the word certainly has, but which does not here give a very 
intelligible sense. The other meaning of the word, exhor¬ 
tation, is more appropriate; namely, that the Holy Ghost 
inspired those who preached the gospel, and inclined the 
hearts of those who heard. (So Meyer, De Wette, Alford, 
Lechler.) 'ErfXyOvvero —not was filled (Calvin), but, ac¬ 
cording to the usual meaning of the word in the Acts, ivas 
multiplied. The piety of the Christians, and their freedom 

1 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte, p. 91; see also Lardner’s Works, vol. i. 
pp. 54-56. 


from persecution, would have a tendency to increase the 
number of the disciples among the Jews. 

Ver. 32. ’ Eyevero Se Ilerpov — And it came to pass that 
Peter. The time of this apostolic visitation of Peter has 
been variously fixed. It must have taken place either before 
Paul came to Jerusalem, during those three years which he 
spent in Damascus and Arabia, or after he had departed 
from Jerusalem ; because during his residence there, Peter 
was present. Some (Olshausen, Wieseler, Alford) adopt the 
former opinion, that this visitation took place before the 
arrival of Paul at Jerusalem, and when he was still in 
Arabia. They argue that it is improbable there should be 
so great an interval as three years, respecting which no ac¬ 
count is given; and that as it can hardly be conceived that 
the persecution lasted three years, Peter would not delay so 
long, but set out soon after the peace was established. 1 But 
these reasons are not conclusive. According to this opinion, 
the conversion of Cornelius, and the admission of the Gen¬ 
tiles without circumcision into the Christian church, would 
have occurred before Paul came to Jerusalem. The history, 
however, would rather seem to indicate that it was after his 
departure to Cilicia, because the preaching of the dispersed 
to the Gentiles at Antioch appears to have been contempo¬ 
raneous with the preaching of Peter to Cornelius and his 
company (Acts xi. 19-21; see notes to that section) ; and it 
was this preaching at Antioch which was the occasion why 
Barnabas brought Paul from Tarsus to that city (Acts 
xi. 25). The other opinion (Meyer, De Wette, Lange) is, 
upon the whole, more probable, that this visitation of Peter 
occurred during Paul’s residence in Tarsus, after his de¬ 
parture from Jerusalem. There is no improbability in sup¬ 
posing that the pause from persecution occurred some time 
before Peter’s journey; and as to the fact that almost three 
years are passed over in silence, similar omissions are not 
unusual in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts xxiv. 27). 

Aiep^opevov Sea 'iravrcov — passing through all. After 
irdvrwv Meyer supplies dylcov ; but, as Wieseler remarks, 
1 Wieseler’s Chronologie des apostolischen Zeitalters, p. 146. 



hiep^eaOai hta iravroov rwv dylcov is an unusual expression. 
See, however, Rom. xv. 28. Ildvrwv is rather to be con¬ 
sidered as neuter— passing through all places. Peter, as 
Chrysostom observes, is here again seen to have a certain 
priority among the apostles. “ Like the commander of an 
army, he went about inspecting the ranks, what part was 
compact, what in good order, what needed his presence.” 1 
Peter’s visitation was for the purpose of settling and con¬ 
firming those churches which were established by the mini¬ 
stry of the dispersed preachers, and also for the purpose of 
bestowing the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost. 

KareXOelv /cal 7rpo? rou? cuylovs tou? /caroucovvre 9 AvSSa — 
came doicn to the saints who dwelt at Lydda. Lydda, the 
Lod of the Old Testament (Ezra ii. 33), was about a day’s 
journey from Jerusalem. It was at this period a place of 
considerable importance; Josephus observes that it was not less 
than a city in size (Ant. xx. 6. 2). Cassius, in order to raise 
money, sold its inhabitants as slaves. It was twice taken in 
the Jewish war, first by Cestius Gallus, and at another time 
by Vespasian (Bell. Jud. ii. 19. 1, iv. 8. 1). Afterwards it 
was rebuilt by the Romans, and called Diospolis. From the 
fourth century it was the seat of a bishopric. In 415 a 
council was held here which acquitted Pelagius of heresy. 
During the wars of the Crusaders, Lydda received the name 
of St. George, after the patron saint of England, who was 
said to have been martyred there. At present it is a con¬ 
siderable village, retaining its ancient name Ludd, and is the 
seat of a Greek bishop, who, however, resides in Jerusalem. 
“ Lydda,” observes Raumer, “is situated in a beautiful un¬ 
dulating plain, which seems like a garden full of olive and fig 
trees.” 2 

Ver. 33. It is disputed whether JEneas was a Christian. 
Some suppose that, on account of the indefinite expression 
dvdpwirov Tiva , a certain man , and from his not being called, 
like Tabitha, a disciple, he was not a believer (Lechler, 
Stier). But the probability is that he was a Christian ; for 

1 Chrysostom on the Acts , Horn. xxi. 

2 Lange’s Apostolisches Zeitalter , vol. ii. p. 127. 



it is said that Peter went down to visit the saints in Lydda; 
and in general, faith in Christ was a prerequisite in those 
upon whom miracles of healing were wrought. The name 
is Greek, so that he was probably of Hellenistic descent. 

Ver. 34. Lycrovs o Xpicrros : not, as in our version, Jesus 
Christ , but Jesus the Christ —the Messiah. Xrpwaov creavTw — 
make thy bed; i.e., in proof of the reality of thy recovery, make 
thy bed, on which thou hast lain for eight years. Observe 
here the difference between the manner in which this miracle 
was wrought by Peter, and the manner in which Jesus Christ 
performed His miracles. The different characters of the ser¬ 
vant and the Son are most apparent (see note to Acts iii. 6). 

Ver. 35. Ka\ etbav avrov rravres—And all the inhabitants 
of Lydda and Saron saw him , and they turned to the Lord. 
Kuinoel translates the words, u all the inhabitants of Lydda 
and Saron who had turned to the Lord saw him;” that is, 
all Christians who resided in Lydda and Saron. But this 
is to take the aorist in the sense of the pluperfect, and would 
make the mention of the fact meaningless. iEneas would 
be seen by others besides believers (Alford). The meaning 
then is, that all the inhabitants of Lydda and Saron saw 
him, and in consequence of this evidence of the Messiahship 
of Jesus turned to the Lord. ILAt€? is here to be taken 
in a popular sense, expressing the numerous conversions 
which occurred in consequence of this miracle. Zeller’s 
objection, that there is here a gross exaggeration, is hyper¬ 
criticism. Tov 'Zapwva — Saron. Saron, or, as it is called in 
the Old Testament, Sharon, is a large fertile plain extending 
along the coast of the Mediterranean for about thirty miles 
from Joppa to Caesarea. It is always mentioned with the 
definite article— the Sharon , that is, according to some inter¬ 
preters, the plain. Its beauty and fertility are often alluded 
to by the sacred writers : as in the Song of Solomon, u I am 
the rose of Sharon” (Cant. ii. 1); and in the prophecies of 
Isaiah, a The excellency of Carmel and Sharon ” (Isa. xxxv. 
2 ). And notwithstanding the present desolation of the land, 
it is still represented by travellers as an undulating plain 
remarkable for its richness and beauty. 



Ver. 36. ’Ev JoTrirr]—in Joppa. This celebrated seaport 
is about thirty-five miles distant from Jerusalem. It was 
the chief seaport of Judea, until Herod the Great made the 
artificial harbour of Caesarea Palestine. We find it first 
mentioned in the book of Joshua by the name of Japho, as 
belonging to the tribe of Dan (Josh. xix. 46). It was, how¬ 
ever, a Philistine city, and was probably not acquired by the 
Israelites until the days of David. It was the place to which 
the materials were brought for building both Solomon’s and 
the second temple (2 Chron. ii. 16; Ezra iii. 7). From 
Joppa Jonah took ship to flee from the presence of the 
Lord (Jonah i. 3). Jonathan Maccabseus took it from 
the Syrian kings (1 Macc. x. 76). Pompey attached it to 
the province of Syria; but it was restored to the Jews by 
Julius Caesar, and confirmed to Herod the Great by Augustus. 
After the deposition of Archelaus, it was again incorporated 
in Syria. At the time to which the history refers, Joppa 
was a flourishing town. In the commencement of the Jewish 
war, it was destroyed by Cestius Gallus on his march to 
Jerusalem; and it was a second time taken and destroyed by 
Vespasian, who, in order to protect the country against pirates, 
erected a fort there, which became the nucleus of a new town 
{Bell. Jud. ii. 18. 19, iii. 9. 2-4). Joppa is frequently men¬ 
tioned in the wars of the Crusaders, being the port at which 
the pilgrims landed; and it was among the last towns which 
surrendered to the Saracens. In modern times it has gained 
an unhappy notoriety on account of Napoleon’s massacre 
of his prisoners. At present it is the principal seaport of 
Palestine, with a wretched harbour, known under the name 
of Jaffa, and containing a population of five thousand, of 
whom about a thousand are Christians. Joppa is beauti¬ 
fully situated on the undulating plain of Sharon : in the 
distance are the mountains of Judea, and before it the 
Mediterranean. Tradition points out the house of Simon, 
with whom Peter lodged. 1 

Ta/3i0dj r) $iepprjvevopevrj Xeyerat Aoptcas — Tabitha , who 

1 Winer’s biblisches Worterbuch; Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible; 
Lange’s apostolisches Zeitalter , vol. ii. p. 128. 

VOL. I. Z 



hy interpretation is called Dorcas. Tabitha in the Aramaic, 
and Dorcas in the Greek, signify a gazelle. A op teas appears 
as a female name among the Greeks (Lncret. iv. 1154), and 
was not unknown among the Jews. Thus Josephus speaks 
of one John, who u was called the son of Dorcas, in the 
language of our country” (Bell. Jud. iv. 3. 5). Luke gives 
her name both in Hebrew and Greek, from which some 
suppose that she was a Hellenist, whilst others draw the 
opposite inference that she was a pure Hebrew. But such 
inferences are mere conjectures. It was at this time the 
custom for Jews to have two names, the one Hebrew and 
the other Greek; and this would especially be the case in 
the seaport of Joppa, which was at once a Gentile and a 
Jewish town. 1 Besides, it is by no means clear that Tabitha 
was actually called Dorcas : Luke perhaps only gave the 
interpretation of her Jewish name for the benefit of his Greek 

Ver. 37. Aovaavres Se avrrjv—having washed her. The 
custom of washing the dead was common, not only among 
the Jews, but also among the Greeks and Bomans ( corpusque 
lavant frigentis et unguunt: Virgil, JEn. vi. 219). Thus 
Maimonides says : “ It is the custom in Israel about the 
dead and their burial, that when any is dead, they shut his 
eyes and wash his body.” 

Ver. 38. 'Eyyvs 3e overr/s Av$8a<; rfj Joirinj — and as 
Lydda was near to Joppa. The distance between the modern 
village of Ludd (the ancient Lydda) and Jaffa is only about 
nine miles. Mg ofcvycrys SteXOeiv ecu? rjgwv—do not delay to 
come to us. In the direct form. (See Critical Note.) It 
does not appear that the disciples, in sending for Peter, had 
any idea that he could restore Dorcas to life; but they sent 
for him, that he might give them advice and assistance in 
their distress. 

Ver. 39. Xltcovos /cat [ydria — tunics and garments. Xirwv^ 
a tunic, the inner garment worn next the skin ; ifidriov , the 
outer garment or mantle, different from the tunic, and worn 

1 According to Strabo, Joppa was inhabited by a mixed population, 
composed of Egyptians, Arabians, and Phoenicians (Strabo, xvi. 2. 34). 



above it: so that the words may be translated inner and outer 

Ver. 40. 'EicftaXoov 3e e^co izavra^ 6 17. —But Peter having 
put them all out; after the example of his Master, and in 
order that he might be undisturbed in his prayers. @et? ra 
f yovara irpoaiju^aTo—kneeled down and prayed; namely, to 
Christ, in whose name the apostles performed their miracles. 
“ This prayer,” observes Lechler, “is the essential feature by 
which the resurrection of Tabitha is distinguished from that 
of the daughter of Jairus. Jesus, without any preceding 
prayer, took the dead child by the hand, and recalled her to 
life; but Peter does not do so until he had prayed to the 
Lord for this miracle.” 1 

The raising of Tabitha—the first instance of such a miracle 
in the Acts—has been explained away by those critics who 
do not believe in the reality of miracles ; some explaining it 
as a natural occurrence, and others as an unhistorical legend. 
Critics of the rationalistic school (Heinrichs, Ivuinoel) ex¬ 
plain the fact as an awakening from apparent death. With 
them Ewald agrees, who refers the awakening to that boun¬ 
dary line when the last spark of life still remains in man. 
So also De Wette observes, that although the idea of an 
apparent death is contrary to the view of the author and of 
the eye-witnesses, yet they might have erred in their judg¬ 
ment of the case. 2 But such an opinion is directly opposed 
to the words of the narrative. Tabitha is there represented 
not only as dead, but as having been dead for some time 
(ver. 37). Critics of the mythical school (Baur, Zeller) 
have recourse to the explanation of mythical exaggeration. 
They suppose that this narrative is a mere transference of 
the narrative of the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, 
for the purpose of glorifying the apostles. Baur even lays 
stress on the similitude of sound between TaXcdd (Mark v. 
41) and Ta(3i6d, and supposes that the latter is borrowed 
from the former. And Zeller supposes that the narrative is 
taken rather from Mark’s Gospel than from Luke’s, because 

1 Lange’s Bibelwerk: Apostelgeschichte, p. 174. 

2 De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 92. 



it did not proceed from the author of the Acts himself, but 
from another who had the Gospel of Mark before him. 1 To 
such forced suppositions must these critics have recourse. 
The account given of Tabitha is entirely natural, especially 
the fact that the assembled widows showed to Peter the 
garments she had made. There is no resemblance between 
this Christian woman and the daughter of Jairus, who is 
represented as a girl of twelve years of age; so that they 
cannot be supposed to be one and the same person. 

Yer. 43. 'Hyepas hcavas—many days : a long period. 
(See note to Acts ix. 23.) Perhaps for a year ; for we find 
that Peter abode in Joppa, until he went to Csesarea. The 
city was large, and the inhabitants showed a susceptibility 
toward the gospel. Ilapd tlvl 'Ziywvi {Bvpcrel — with one 
Simon , a tanner. By the strict Jews the operation of 
tanners was regarded as unclean, and they were ordered to 
dwell apart. This conduct of Peter, then, in lodging with 
a tanner, proves that he was free from these scruples. The 
Jewish law in its strictness was gradually losing its hold on 
him, and he was becoming prepared for the reception of the 
great truth—the admission of the Gentiles without circum¬ 
cision into the church of Christ. 

1 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 177. 



1 And a certain man in Caesarea, called Cornelius, a centurion of the 
cohort called the Italian, 2 A devout man, and fearing God with all 
his house, and doing many alms-deeds to the people, and praying to God 
always, 3 Saw in a vision evidently, about the ninth hour of the day, 
an angel of God coming to him, and saying to him, Cornelius. 4 But 
he, gazing on him, and being afraid, said, What is it, Lord? And he 
said to him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial 
before God. 5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, who 
is surnamed Peter: 6 He lodges with one Simon a tanner, whose house 
is by the sea-side. 7 And when the angel who spoke to him was de¬ 
parted, he called two of the household servants, and a devout soldier of 
them who waited on him ; 8 And having related all things to them, he 

sent them to Joppa. 

9 And on the morrow, as they journeyed, and drew nigh to the city, 
Peter went up to the house-top to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 And 
he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but, while they made 
ready, an ecstasy happened to him, 11 And he saw heaven opened, and 
a certain vessel descending, as a great linen cloth, united by the four 
corners, and let down to the earth ; 12 In which were all quadrupeds 

and reptiles of the earth, and birds of heaven. 13 And there came a 
voice to him, Rise, Peter, kill and eat. 14 But Peter said, By no means, 
Lord ; for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean. 
15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, What God has 
cleansed, that regard not thou as common. 16 And this happened thrice: 
and straightway the vessel was taken up into heaven. 17 Now, while 
Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen might be, 
behold, the men sent from Cornelius, after they had made inquiry for 
Simon’s house, stood at the gate ; 18 And having called, they asked 

if Simon, who is called Peter, lodges here. 19 While Peter thought 
on the vision, the Spirit said to him, Behold, men seek thee. 20 Arise 
therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: 
because I have sent them. 21 Then Peter, having gone down to the 
men, said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore 
ye are come ? 22 And they said, Cornelius, a centurion, a just man, 

and one who fears God, and of good report among all the nation of the 
Jews, was warned by a holy angel to send for thee to his house, and to 
hear words from thee. 23 Then, having invited them in, he lodged them. 




Ver. 1. *Hv after rt? is wanting in A, B, C, E, G, and X, 
and is omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf. Yer. 4. 
’Evcdttlov before rod Beov , found in 0, E, G, is rejected by 
Tischendorf, who prefers epLTrpoadev, found in A, B, K. 
Yer. 5. After ^Lpicova Tischendorf and Lachmann read 
t iva, found in A, B, C. Yer. 6. The concluding words, 
ouro? \a\r)crec crot, tl cre Set iroieiv, are wanting in A, B, C, 
E, G, and X, and consequently are to be rejected as spurious. 
Yer. 7. After \a\wv G reads rw Kopvrjkiw; whereas A, B, 

C, E, K read aurw, the reading adopted by the best critics. 
Avtou after ohcerwv, found in G, is omitted in A, B, C, E, tf, 
and rejected by Lachmann, Tischendorf, etc. Yer. 10. E, G 
read eirerreaev; whereas A, B, C, N read iyevero, the reading 
preferred by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Alford. Yer. 11 . 
After kcltcl(3cuvov the textus receptus has err avrov , which 
is wanting in A, B, E, K, and rejected by the best critics. 
Yer. 12 . A, B, C, E, X place ri}? 77)9 after epirerd, the position 
adopted by Lachmann and Tischendorf. The words /cal ra 
Orjpla, found in G, are omitted in A, B, E, X, and erased by 
Lachmann and Tischendorf. Yer. 16. Instead of 7 ra\u>, A, 
B, C, E, X read ev6v 9 , the reading now generally adopted. 
Yer. 19. The compound hievdvpiovpievov, found in all the 
best MSS., is to be preferred to the simple verb evOvpLovpievov. 
Tpeis after dvBpe 9 is found in A, C, E, N, and wanting in 

D, G, H (B reads Bvo ) : it is omitted by Tischendorf. 
Yer. 21. The words rov 9 direcrTaXpLevovs diro rod KopvrjXlov 
7rpo*9 avrov are only found in a single uncial ms., H, and are 
certainly spurious. 


This and the two subsequent sections treat of an event 
which formed a most important crisis in Christianity. 
Hitherto Christianity had been limited to the Hebrew and 
Hellenistic Jews, the Jewish proselytes, and the Samaritans, 
whose religious opinions were allied to those of the Jews; 



and thus the Christians might still be regarded as a Jewish 
sect, differing from their fellow-countrymen only in their 
belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messiah. But 
now it was to include the Gentiles: the restrictions which 
still existed were to be abolished; the universal character of 
the gospel was to be proclaimed. This truth, almost self- 
evident to us, was one of the most important declarations in 
the apostolic times: it was, as Paul terms it, that mystery 
u which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of 
men, but was now revealed unto the holy apostles and pro¬ 
phets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs 
and of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ 
by the gospel” (Eph. iii. 5, 6). 

It may indeed, at first sight, appear strange that Peter 
should require a special revelation to teach him that the 
gospel should be preached to the Gentiles, especially after 
the repeated predictions of the call of the Gentiles made in 
the Old Testament, and the plain statements of the Lord 
Himself on this subject. But it is to be observed, that the 
apostles did not doubt that the Gentiles should be received 
into the Christian church : they received and held it as the 
commission of their Master, that they should make disciples 
of all nations. But then they supposed that the conver¬ 
sion of the Gentiles would take place through the medium 
of Judaism; that in order to be received into the Chris¬ 
tian church, they must be circumcised and keep the law of 
Moses. Some of the Christian teachers, as Stephen, Philip, 
and other Hellenists, may have held more liberal views; but 
even they do not seem to have attempted the direct con¬ 
version of the Gentiles. Indeed, there were difficulties in 
the reception of this truth, which nothing but a divine reve¬ 
lation could overcome. Circumcision was of God, and the 
uncircumcised were commanded to be cut off from among 
His people : the law of Moses was of divine origin ; Jesus 
Himself had said, that He came not to destroy the law, but 
to fulfil it; and besides, all their national prejudices as Jews 
were enlisted in the maintenance of the opinion that they 
were the peculiar people of God. Hence it was necessary 



that believers should be taught by a direct example, that the 
law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ; that the legal restric¬ 
tions were now abolished ; and that the Gentiles, without 
circumcision, were admissible into the kingdom of God. The 
subject is so important, that it is detailed at great length : 
three accounts are given of the vision of Cornelius, and two 
of the vision of Peter. 

Ver. 1. ’Avrjp Be tls—B ut a certain man. The beginning 
of this narrative is not abrupt, as in our version, but con¬ 
nected with what goes before by the particle Be. It was 
while Peter was at Joppa, in the neighbourhood of Caesarea, 
that the event here recorded happened. ’Ev Kaiaapela—in 
Caesarea. For a description of Caesarea, the Roman capital 
of Judea, and the residence of the Roman governor, see 
note to Acts viii. 40. ’ Ovo/ian KopvriXtos, eKaTOVTap^y ^— 

by name Cornelius , x a centurion. A centurion was strictly a 
commander of a hundred men, but the word was used with 
some degree of latitude. It is a remarkable fact, that all 
the centurions mentioned in the New Testament are favour¬ 
ably noticed. There is the centurion in Capernaum, whose 
faith our Lord commended (Matt. viii. 5) ; the centurion 
who attended at the crucifixion, and who acknowledged Jesus 
as the Son of God (Matt, xxvii. 54) ; the centurion who 
accompanied Paul to Rome, and was so favourably disposed 
to him (Acts xxvii. 3, 43) ; and here Cornelius, the first- 
fruits of the Gentiles. ’ Ek Girelpr)?—of the cohort. A cohort 
was about the tenth part of a legion, and consisted of about 
six hundred men. It however varied, according to the size 
of the legion. KaXovyevys ’ IraXL/ciy—called the Italian. 

This cohort was so called, probably because the soldiers 
belonging to it were Italians, or Romans. In general, the 
Roman troops were at this time drawn from the inhabitants 
of the countries where they were quartered (Joseph. Ant. 
xiv. 15. 10). This Italian cohort would be somewhat similar 
to a British regiment in India, as distinguished from the 

1 No inference can be drawn in favour of the superior rank of 
Cornelius, because he bore such a distinguished name (Conybeare and 
Howson, vol. i. p. 143). The name was common among the Romans. 



Sepoys, or native troops. This cohort was at Cassarea, and 
perhaps formed the body-guard of the Roman governor: 
they were troops on whom he could depend in disputes with 
the natives. This Italian cohort, however, is not to be con¬ 
founded with the Italian legion ( Legio Italica ), which Tacitus 
mentions in his history of the reign of Otho (Hist. i. 59. 64) ; 
as, according to Dio Cassius, this legion was not formed 
until the reign of Nero (lib. lv. 24). It is generally supposed 
to have been an independent cohort, attached to no legion, 
being a species of pretorian guard to the Roman procurator. 
Wieseler, with some degree of probability, supposes that it 
was composed of Italian volunteers. Arrian speaks of ol rrj<; 
aTrelfjrjs rfi 9 TraAt/a}? ire^ol, u the foot-soldiers of the Italian 
cohortand there is an ancient inscription, in which the 
following words occur: Cohors militum Italicorum voluntaria 
quae est in Syria — u The cohort of Italian volunteers which is 
in Syria” (Gruter, Inscr. p. 434, l). 1 

Ver. 2. Evcre/3r)s, kcu cf)o/3ovyevo ? rov Geov — pious , and 
fearing God. Cornelius was one of those Gentiles, not un¬ 
common in the apostolic age, who had become dissatisfied 
with the religious worship of his ancestors, and was at¬ 
tached to the purer religion of the Jews. He had ceased to 
be an idolater, and had become a worshipper of the true 
God. He had so far adopted the principles of Judaism, 
that he kept its hours of worship, attached himself in some 
degree to the Jews, and perhaps attended their synagogues, 
but yet had not submitted to the rite of circumcision, or 
adopted their ceremonial observances. TIoloov re eXerjyo- 
avvas 7roXXa? tw Xaw — and doing many alms-deeds to the 
people. 0 Xao? here evidently refers to the people of Israel; 
and hence it is said that u he was of good report among all 
the nation of the Jews” (Acts x. 22). There is a striking 
resemblance between Cornelius and the centurion in Caper¬ 
naum, of whom it is said that he loved the nation of the 
Jews, and built for them a synagogue (Luke vii. 4, 5). 
Kal Seoyevo? rov 0 eov hia iravros — and praying to God 

1 Quoted in Akerman’s Numismatic Illustrations of the Acts , pp. 33-85. 
See also Wieseler’s Chronologic , p. 145 ; Biscoe on the Acts , pp. 300-314. 



always. Cornelius, having in a measure adopted the prin¬ 
ciples of Judaism, shared with the Jews in their Messianic 
hopes. He could not have been entirely ignorant of the 
claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah. Philip the 
evangelist was probably already in Caesarea, preaching the 
gospel (Acts viii. 44): there must have been Christians there; 
and the fame of Peter’s miracles and preaching in the neigh¬ 
bouring cities may have reached the Roman centurion. The 
narrative itself supposes that Cornelius was not ignorant of 
the facts of the life of Jesus. Peter in his address takes 
for granted that he was acquainted with the word which 
God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by 
Jesus Christ (Acts x. 36, 37). Hence, then, there is nothing 
improbable in the supposition that the great subject of the 
prayers and fastings of Cornelius was that he might obtain 
more religious light, and especially might be led to the truth 
with regard to Jesus Christ (Lange, Neander, Alford, 
Schaff). Ar Lange observes: u He knew the history of 
Jesus so far as it was spread abroad: he knew that no small 
part of the Jews recognised him as the Messiah, and that a 
division upon this question agitated his co-religionists; and 
probably his own soul was agitated by the same inquiry, and 
he longed after a true solution from above.” 1 

It is the common opinion that Cornelius was already a 
proselyte of the gate. So Grotius, Olshausen, Neander, 
Wieseler, Lekebusch, Stier, and Lange. The character 
given of him, evcre(3r)s teal tyofiovyevos t ov 0 eov , is said to 
be the exact description of such a proselyte. Cornelius also 
adopted the Jewish hours of prayer, and was acquainted with 
the books of the Old Testament, for Peter in his address to 
him appeals to the prophets; and he was held in estimation 
by the Jewish inhabitants of Caesarea. On the other hand, 
Meyer asserts that the whole description supposes that he 
was completely unconnected with the Jews by proselytism. 
Peter calls him dAAo^uXo?, with whom a Jew was not per¬ 
mitted to hold intercourse (Acts x. 28). According to 
Jewish writers, there were two kinds of proselytes — u pro- 
1 Lange’s apostolisches Zeitalter , vol. ii. p. 129. 



selytes of the gate,” and u proselytes of righteousness.” 
The proselytes of the gate were those who remained un¬ 
circumcised, but were worshippers of the true God, and 
observed the so-called seven precepts of Noah. These pre¬ 
cepts forbade blasphemy, idolatry, murder, incest, theft, 
disobedience to magistrates, and eating flesh with the blood 
in it. Such a proselyte they considered Naaman the Syrian 
to have been. The proselytes of righteousness, again, were 
those who adopted the whole law of Moses, and in the case 
of males were circumcised. These were received into the 
Jewish theocracy., and were regarded as complete Jews. 
Such a distinction is, however, doubtful. Many eminent 
critics suppose it to have been a mere invention of the Jewish 
rabbis. And even if it did exist before the Babylonish 
captivity, yet, as De Wette and Winer remark, referring to 
Selden (de jure nat. et gent . p. 153) and Maimonides ( Heb . 
Melc. i. 6), the inferior grade of proselytism ceased to have 
any significance after the overthrow of the Jewish kingdom. 1 
The only proselytism which the Jews seem to have recog¬ 
nised was when the Gentiles adopted the whole law: such 
Gentiles are the only persons who, in the Acts, are called by 
the name of proselytes. Those devout persons who, like 
Cornelius, worshipped the true God, and adopted the spiri¬ 
tual element of Judaism, were not regarded by the Jews as 
proselytes; but, so long as they continued uncircumcised, as 
Gentiles, with whom it was unlawful to hold intercourse. 
We judge, then, that there was, at least in apostolic times, 
no such class as “ proselytes of the gate; ” and that Cor¬ 
nelius, although inclined to Judaism, yet, being uncircum¬ 
cised, was not in any sense a proselyte, but a type of a 
numerous class of Gentiles in that day, who, dissatisfied with 
polytheism, had embraced the monotheism of the Jews. 

Ver. 3. ElSev iv opdfiazL (pavepoos—saw in a vision evi¬ 
dently. The nominative to eihev is dvgp ovoyarc Kopvrfkio ? 
of ver. 1, making one long sentence. It would seem that 
there was an actual outward appearance of an angel to Cor¬ 
nelius, although the word opaya is frequently used for that 

1 Winer’s Worterbuch —Proselyten. 



which has no objective existence (Acts x. 17, xii. 9). Cor¬ 
nelius was awake when the vision appeared to him; and the 
word (f)av€pco<; implies that it was a reality, and no dream. 
'f2crel wpav evarr/v Trjs rjpLepa?—about the ninth hour of the 
day; that is, about three in the afternoon, the hour of the 
evening sacrifice. Cornelius, although not a Jew, yet adopted 
their hours of prayer as the proper seasons for his devotion. 
''AyyeXov rod Seov—an angel of God. All attempts to give 
a natural explanation of this appearance are inadmissible, 
and contradict the text. Eichhorn supposes that Cornelius 
was very desirous to become acquainted with the distinguished 
Peter, and had learned from a citizen of Joppa the place of 
his abode; and whilst engaged in earnest prayer, he felt a 
peculiar elevation of spirit, by which, as by an angel, he was 
confirmed in the resolution to make Peter’s acquaintance. 
So also Ewald thinks that Cornelius, hesitating whether or 
not he should make the acquaintance of Peter, was fixed in 
his determination to do so, as if he were enlightened by a 
heavenly certainty, and directed by an angelic voice. 1 And 
even Neander, by unwarrantably mixing up his own sup¬ 
positions with the sacred narrative, has given reason to sus¬ 
pect that he assigns to the event a natural explanation. He 
supposes that Cornelius, acquainted in some measure with the 
evangelical history, was eagerly desirous of further enlighten¬ 
ment, and of becoming acquainted with Peter. For this 
purpose he set apart some days for fasting and prayer. In 
this state of mind he received, by a voice from heaven, an 
answer to his prayers. That an angel actually appeared to 
him may be an objective event; but u we need not suppose 
any actual appearance, for we know not whether a higher 
spirit cannot communicate itself to men living in a world of 
sense by an operation on the inward sense. Cornelius is the 
only witness for the objective reality, and he can only be taken 
as a credible witness of what he believed he had perceived.” 2 
It is, however, to be observed, that not only did the angel 
appear to Cornelius, but communicated to him information 

1 Ewald’s Gescliichte des apostolisclien Zeitalters, p. 222. 

2 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. pp. C8-70. 



concerning the residence of Peter; and it is clear from the 
term (pavep&s, and the expression 4>? dTrrjXOev 6 d'yyeXos, that 
an objective appearance is described. 

Ver. 4. A l rTpoaevyal gov /cal al eXeypoavvat gov , etc.— 

Thy prayers and, thy alms are come up for a memorial before 
God. There is here no reference to the Jewish notion* that 
prayers are carried by the angels to the throne of God; or, 
as Bengel expresses it, u angels are not said to be tepet?, but 
yet they are Xeirovpyoi!' 1 Some suppose here a doctrinal 
difficulty, that the good works of Cornelius were accepted 
before he had faith in Christ; but as Calvin well remarks, 
“He could obtain nothing by prayer, unless faith went 
before, which only opens the gate for us to pray.” 1 lie 
had that faith which was at the time possible. He believed 
in the Messiah of the Old Testament, and was now to be led 
to a higher faith—belief in Jesus, the Messiah of the New 
Testament (Meyer). 

Ver. 5. Merdirepyfai Ifipwva nva , etc.— send for one 
Simon , who is surnamed Peter . T/va is affixed after ^Ipcova, 
because Simon was one of the most common names amoim 


the Jews : it also suggests that Cornelius and Peter were V 
previously unacquainted. Cornelius is not referred to Philip 
the evangelist, although probably then resident in Caesarea ; 
because so important a matter as the admission of the Gen¬ 
tiles into the church of Christ was to be effected by the 
apostles. Nor is he commanded to send to Jerusalem for 
James or John, but to Joppa for Peter; because it was the 
peculiar privilege of Peter, granted him by Christ, to open 
the door of admission into the Christian church, both to 
the Jews as at Pentecost, and to the Gentiles as at this 

Ver. 6. T2 early ohda rrapa OdXaaav—whose house is by 
the sea-side. (See note to Acts ix. 43.) The house of 
Simon was on the shore of the Mediterranean, without the 
walls of Joppa. This was not only for the sake of con¬ 
venience, but the trade of a tanner was regarded by the Jews 
as unclean, and was not permitted to be exercised within 

1 Calvin on Acts x. 4. 



their cities. Cadavera et sepulcra separant et coriarium quin - 
quaginta cubitos a civitate (Surenh. Mischn. xi. 9). 

Ver. 7. 'fls Se dirrjkOev o ayyeXo?—but when the angel was 
departed. This proves that, according to Luke, there was an 
objective appearance of an angel to Cornelius : he comes and 
goes. A vo rwv ol/cercov : literally, two members of his house¬ 
hold ; that is, two of his domestics. XrpaTLcoryv evaefty )— 
a devout soldier. The soldier had the same religious spirit 
as his master: he also had renounced idolatry, and was a 
worshipper of the true God. 

Ver. 9. Ty Se eiravptov bSonropovvTwv—and on the morrow , 
as they journeyed and drew nigh to the city. Joppa was about 
thirty miles south of Caesarea, and thus the journey would 
occupy more than one day. The messengers of Cornelius 
would leave Caesarea about three in the afternoon, and they 
arrived at Joppa next day at noon. So also, on their return 
to Caesarea, they spend more than one day. 

Thus Cornelius was directed by a vision to send for Peter. 
But there was another difficulty to overcome. Would Peter 
be willing to come when sent for? The law of Moses, as 
then interpreted, forbade the Jews to associate with other 
nations. To remove this difficulty, Peter also has a vision to 
prepare him to receive the message sent by Cornelius. The 
two visions correspond: the one answers to the other; and 
this mutual relationship is an argument in favour of the 
divine origin of each. 'Avefir] Uerpos eiri to Swya irpoa- 
ev^aaOai—Peter went up to the house-top to pray. Acoya 
here is not to be understood in the sense of wrepooov, u an 
upper chamber ” (Luther, Erasmus) : this would be contrary 
to all usage. The vision took place in the open air: Peter 
saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending. It is 
true that Swya by itself signifies only a house ; but the words 
€7 rl to Swya signify u on the house-top” (Luke v. 19). 
The roofs of houses in the East were flat, and consisted of a 
water-tight floor a little elevated in the centre, to permit the 
rain-water to run off. In Judea they were, in conformity 
with the law of Moses, protected by parapets (Deut. xxii. 8). 
In general, there were two stairs up to them,—the one 



through the house, and the other from the street. One 
could walk along the roofs from one end of the street to the 
other. We find that they were employed for various pur¬ 
poses : in summer, men slept on them; tents were erected 
upon them at the feast of tabernacles; conferences were 
held upon them ; and they were used as places for religious 
exercises (2 Kings xxiii. 12 ; Jer. xix. 13; Zeph. i. 5 ). 1 So 
here Peter betakes himself to the house-top for the purpose 
of prayer; perhaps on account of the retirement, or the 
advantage it gave him to look toward the temple of Jeru¬ 
salem, to which all devout Jews had a regard: thus Daniel 
in Babylon prayed with his face directed toward Jerusalem 
(Dan, vi. 10). Tlepl wpav e/cryv — about the sixth hour; that 
is, at noon. Besides the two stated hours of prayer—'the 
third and the ninth—the more devout among the Jews set 
apart a third, at noon. Thus Daniel prayed three times a 
day (Dan. vi. 10); and David says, u Evening, and morning, 
and noon will I pray.” (See note to Acts ii. 15.) 

Ver. 10 . Tlpbaireivo 9 — very hungry. IIpos, the sign of 
intensity. This word is not found elsewhere. ’ Eyevero eV 
avrov eKcrTacrLs — an ecstasy happened to him. "E/caracrc 9 
literally signifies u standing out of oneself:” hence a trance 
or rapture ; or, as St. Chrysostom explains it, u The soul, 
so to speak, was withdrawn from the body.” Paul in his 
ecstasy, when he was taken up to the third heavens, says 
that he was doubtful whether he was in the body or out of 
the body (2 Cor. xii. 1-3). The e/caracas of Peter seems to 
differ from the opaya of Cornelius in this, that whereas Peter 
was entirely insensible to external things, and saw only that 
which passed before his spirit, but which as in a dream had 
no objective reality; Cornelius in a waking state, and atten¬ 
tive to what was around him, saw what actually occurred. 
The linen cloth which came down from heaven was an 
internal vision imparted to Peter, whereas the angel who 
stood before Cornelius was an external reality. 

Ver. 11. Kal deccpec rov ovpavov dvewyyevov — -And he saw 
heaven opened , and a certain vessel , as a great linen cloth; i.e. 

1 Winer’s Worterbucli —Dach. 



he saw something like a great linen sheet descending from 
heaven to earth. The connection between the natural and 
the supernatural is here to be noted. Peter was very hungry, 
and would have eaten; and whilst he was in this state he 
saw in a trance a great linen cloth, containing all manner of 
food. In the kingdom of God, the natural is made subser¬ 
vient to the spiritual. As Neander observes on this point: 
“Two tendencies of his nature came into conjunction: the 
power of the divine had the mastery over his spirit, and the 
power of the animal want had the mastery over his lower 
nature. Thus it came to pass that the divine and the natural 
were mingled together : the divine employed the reflection of 
the natural as an image or vehicle for the truth about to be 
revealed. The divine light, which was breaking through the 
atmosphere of traditionary notions, and was about to rise in 
his soul, revealed itself in the mirror of sensible images which 
proceeded from the present want of his animal nature.” 1 
Teacrapaiv appals Sede/ievov—united by the four corners. The 
literal meaning of dp^y is the beginning; hence ap^ais is 
here used to signify the beginnings—that is, the extremities 
or corners—of the linen cloth. Alford objects that, if this 
were the signification, it would require the definite article; 
and hence he renders it u by four rope-ends.” But no passage 
can be produced where dp%y signifies a rope-end : this is 
introducing another term (rope) into the text. The four 
corners are by many (Bengel, Lange, Neander, Alford, 
Wordsworth) supposed to denote the four quarters of the 
globe: that the whole world—north, south, east, and west— 
was included in the kingdom of God. 

Ver. 12. UavTa ra rerpairoha—all quadrupeds and reptiles 
of the earth , and birds of heaven. These words are not to be 
restricted as if they signified that there were presented to 
Peter some kinds of animals, or only the unclean animals 
forbidden to be eaten by the Jewish law; but are to be taken 
in their literal acceptation, that all animals whatsoever were 
seen in the vision. The objection to this, that this was an 
impossibility, is easily answered; for, as Calvin observes, 

1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 72. 



li we must not measure this seeing according to the manner 
of men, because the trance gave Peter other eyes.” 

Yer. 14. Mrjhayoo^^ Kvpte' on ovheiroje ecfrayov ttclv koivov 
/ cal d/cdOaprov — By no means , Lord; for I have never eaten 
anything that is common and unclean. The devout Jews 
religiously kept the precepts of the Mosaic law concerning 
clean and unclean meats. Daniel and his companions chose 
to be fed on pulse, rather than defile themselves with the 
king’s meat (Dan. i. 8, 12). Eleazar (2 Macc. vi. 18), 
and the Jewish mother and her seven sons (2 Macc. vii.), 
suffered death rather than partake of swine’s flesh. Hence 
Peter’s refusal to obey a command, against which all his 
religious notions as a Jew revolted. 

Yer. 15. 6 0eo<? i/cadepuaev , crv yrj kolvov — What God 

has cleansed , that regard not thou as common. The import of 
the vision is obvious. It was explained to Peter by the Spirit, 
and by the opportune arrival of the messengers of Cornelius. 
It referred not merely to clean and unclean animals, but to 
men—to the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The 
Jews looked upon unclean animals as an image of the Gen¬ 
tiles, whom they called dogs. But now Peter was taught 
that all men were on the same footing in the sight of 
God. Indirectly also it referred to meats. The distinction 
between clean and unclean meats which formed so consider¬ 
able a part of the Mosaic law was abolished; and thus one 
of the great barriers of separation between Jews and Gentiles 
was removed. The other great barrier, that of circumcision, 
was also removed by the direct outpouring of the Holy Ghost 
upon Cornelius and his household. Some (Olshausen, Lange, 
Alford) suppose that there is here an intimation of a real 
purification and consecration of the animal creation : that 
u the reason of the declaration, 1 What God has cleansed, 
that regard not thou as common,’ is to be sought for in the 
completed redemption which is regarded as a restitution of 
the whole creation.” 1 All things are thus regarded as con¬ 
secrated by the death of Christ. If the first creation was 
declared by God to be very good, much more is the second 
1 Olsliausen on the Gospels and the Acts , vol. iv. p. 370. 

VOL. I. 2 A 


purified in the redemption which came down from heaven 
(Lange). This opinion, however, appears to be far-fetched, 
and puts a mystical meaning into the text. The distinction 
of clean and unclean animals was instituted as a barrier of 
separation between Jews and Gentiles: and when this sepa¬ 
ration had served its purpose, and was to be abolished in 
Christ—when the church of God was no longer to be limited 
to one particular nation, but was to embrace the whole earth 
—this distinction was done away with; and that wdiich in the 
Mosaic law referred to animals, is in the religion of Christ 
spiritualized, and refers to the morality of our actions: “Not 
that which goeth into the mouth is unclean, but those things 
which come out of the mouth defile a man.” 

Ver. 16. Tovto Se iyenero eVt rpt? — and this happened 
thrice. The vision was thrice repeated, to impart the greater 
emphasis to it as a thing most important and established by 
God ; and to place it beyond suspicion, as if it were a mere 
phantom or delusion. 

Vers. 17, 18. Se iv eavrw Sigiropei o ITerpo?— Now 
while Peter doubted in himself. The true import of the vision 
was not immediately recognised by Peter ; but the arrival of 
the messengers of Cornelius at this very time, accompanied 
by the intimation of the Spirit, imparted to him its true 
meaning. ^covr/crames — having called. Not because the 
Jews excluded Gentiles from their houses (Kuinoel); but 
merely in order to make the necessary inquiries as to whether 
they had reached their proper destination. 

Ver. 19. Plirev to JJvevga avTw — the Spirit said to him. 
Neander supposes that Peter on the house-top heard the mes¬ 
sengers of Cornelius calling on him from below. u Voices of 
strangers in the court of the house, by whom his own name 
was repeated, excited his attention. They w T ere the three 
messengers of Cornelius who were inquiring for him. While 
Peter was observing the men, who by their appearance were 
evidently not Jews, the Spirit of God imparted to him a 
knowledge of the connection between the symbolic vision and 
the errand of these persons.” 1 But there is nothing of all 

1 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. p. 73. 



this in the text: the arrival of the messengers is first made 
known to Peter by the Spirit. This was necessary to impart 
to him undoubted certainty as to the meaning of the vision. 
We must always remember, in these numerous supernatural 
interventions and minute divine directions, the infinite import¬ 
ance of the truth revealed—that Christianity should no longer 
continue a Jewish sect, but become the destined religion of 
the world : that God was not the God of the Jews only, but 
also of the Gentiles. 

Ver. 20. 'On e’yco direaraXica avrovs —because I have sent 
them. The Spirit is said to be the sender of the mes¬ 
sengers, as they could not have come without His divine co¬ 
operation : Cornelius was induced by a divine revelation to 
send them. u Great is the authority of the Spirit! What 
God doth, this the Spirit is said to do” (Chrysostom). 

Yers. 22, 23. 'E^py/iarlo-Or) — ivas warned. Npygarl^co in 
the New Testament is to give a response from God; in the 
passive, it is to receive a divine response—to be warned or 
admonished by God. See Matt. ii. 12 (Robinson’s Lexicon 
of the New Testament). The revelation on the part of the 
angel was regarded as the divine answer to the prayers of 
Cornelius. Avtovs i^evicrev — he lodged them. Peter lodged 
them, although they were Gentiles. He thus acted up to 
the spirit of the vision, showing how readily he complied 
with the intimation imparted to him to call no man common 
or unclean. 



23 And on the morrow he arose and went with them, and certain of 
the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And the morrow after 
he entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius was expecting them, haying 
called together his kinsmen and intimate friends. 25 And it came to 
pass, as Peter entered, Cornelius having met him, falling at his feet, did 
him reverence. 26 But Peter raised him, saying, Arise ; I myself also 
am a man. 27 And conversing with him, he went in, and found many 
assembled. 28 And he said to them, Ye know that it is unlawful for 
a man who is a Jew to associate with or come unto a foreigner; but 
God showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 
29 Therefore came I without opposition when sent for: I ask therefore 
for what reason ye have sent for me? 30 And Cornelius said, Four days 
ago I was fasting until this hour ; and at the ninth hour I was praying 
in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 
31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are remem¬ 
bered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, 
who is surnamed Peter ; he lodges in the house of Simon, a tanner, on 
the sea-side: who, when he comes, shall speak to thee. 33 Immediately 
therefore I sent to thee ; and thou hast well done that thou art come. 
Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that 
are commanded thee from the Lord. 34 Then Peter, having opened his 
mouth, said, In truth, I perceive that God is not a respecter of persons : 
35 But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, 
is acceptable to Him; 36 (This is) the word which He sent to the children 
of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ; He is Lord of all. 37 Ye 
know the events which happened throughout all Judea, beginning from 
Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; 38 (Ye know) Jesus 
of Nazareth, how that God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost and with 
power; who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed 
with the devil: because God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses 
of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem; 
whom also they slew, having hanged Him on a tree : 40 Him God raised 
up the third day, and showed Him openly ; 41 Not to all the people, 

but to witnesses before appointed of God, even to us who did eat and 
drink with Him after He rose from the dead. 42 And He commanded 




us to preacli to the people, and to testify that it is He who is ordained 
by God as judge of the living and dead. 43 To Him all the prophets bear 
witness, that through His name, every one who believes in Him should 
receive forgiveness of sins. 

44 While Peter was yet speaking these words, the Holy Ghost fell on 
all who heard the discourse. 45 And believers of the circumcision who 
accompanied Peter were astonished, because that on the Gentiles also 
the gift of the Holy Ghost was poured out. 46 For they heard them 
speaking with tongues, and magnifying God. 47 Then Peter answered, 
Can any one forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who 
have received the Holy Ghost as well as we ? 48 And he commanded 
them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they desired him to 
remain certain days. 


Ver. 23. f Q ITeV/oo? is by the best critics omitted, being 
inserted as the commencement of an ecclesiastical lesson : 
* Avao-ra? , wanting in the textus recejitus, is found in A, B, C, 
D, N, and is inserted by Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Meyer. 
Ver. 24. The singular elarjXdev, found in B, D, is preferred 
by Tischendorf and Lachmann to the plural eicrijkOov , found 
in A, C, E, G, H, K. Ver. 33. Instead of viro rod Geov, 
found in D, G, H, Tischendorf, Meyer, and Lachmann 
prefer airo rov Kvpiov ) found in A, C, E. 


Ver. 23. TW? rwv dbe\(p(bv—certain of the brethren . These 
brethren perhaps accompanied Peter on account of the im¬ 
portance of the matter in hand, that they might be witnesses 
when he gave in his report to the church at Jerusalem. The 
number of men, as we are elsewhere informed, was six (Acts 
xi. 12). 

Ver. 24. Tfj be eiravpiov—and on the morrow; i.e. the 
morrow after the day they set out—the next morning. As 
the messengers of Cornelius took two days in journeying 
from Csesarea to Joppa, a distance of thirty-two miles, so 
two days were also consumed on their way back. 

Vers. 24-26. O be KopvrfKLos rjv Trpocrbo/ccbv aurou? —but 


Cornelius was expecting them. He had calculated that they 
would return about this time, and had accordingly collected 
a company, composed of those who were similarly disposed 
with himself, to meet Peter : these were his relations (av<y- 
yevel?) and his intimate friends ( avaytcaiovs (f>l\ovs). f /2? 3e 
iyevero rod elae\6eiv rov Uerpov , etc.— And it came to pass , 
as Peter entered , Cornelius having met him. The Codex 
Bezse (D) has the following addition : IIpocreyyt£ovTO<; Se 
rod Tlerpov els ryv Kaiaapecav , 7 rpoSpaycov el? twv SovXcov 
$Lecrd(f)7)(r€v irapayeyovevai avrov • 6 3e Kopvy\ios e/crryhyaas 
/cal avvavryaas avrp irecroov irpo ? rovs 7ro3a? rrpoaeKVvyaev 
avrov — u And as Peter drew nigh to Cmsarea, one of the 
servants running, told that he was coming; and Cornelius, 
having run out and met him, falling at his feet, did him 
reverence.” Although defended by Bornemann, this addi¬ 
tion is undoubtedly spurious, being found in no other Greek 
ms. or version, except as a note on the margin of the Syriac. 
Ueaoov €7rl tovs i ro3a?, 7 rpocreKvvrjaev —falling at his feet , did 
him reverence. It was the custom in the East to express the 
highest degree of respect by falling down at the feet of the 
person honoured. It is, however, probable that the reve¬ 
rence here bestowed partook rather of a religious than of a 
civil character. Cornelius regarded Peter as a being of a 
superior order, and was perhaps not altogether free from his 
former heathen notions concerning the deification of heroes, 
and the appearance of the gods in human form. O Se 
Herpos gyeupev avrov \eycov , AvdcrT7]0i y etc.— But Peter raised 
him , saying , Arise; I myself also am a man. Peter rejects 
the reverence which Cornelius paid him, because it savoured 
of divine homage. (Compare also the conduct of Paul and 
Barnabas at Lystra, Acts xiv. 15.) There is here a re¬ 
markable difference between the conduct of Christ and of 
Ilis apostles. Christ never rejected any honour that was 
paid Him, nor rebuked His disciples and the multitude for 
worshipping Him,—thus proving that He claimed to be of 
divine origin. 

Ver. 27. Kal crvvoyiXwv avrcy elcrfjXOev—and conversing 
with him , he went in. EiayXOe —went into the room where 



the company was assembled; whereas rod elarjXOeiv rov 
Tlerpov (ver. 25) refers to his entrance by the outer door 
into the house. 

Ver. 28. 'Tyaet? eirlaraaOe fix? dQ'epurbv eanv dvSpl ’Iovdalw 
KoWaaOcu i) TrpocrkpyeaQai dXkofvXw—Ye know how it is 
unlawful for a Jew to associate with or come unto a foreigner. 
’ AOepurov — unlawful. This word only occurs once again in 
the New Testament, and that in one of Peter’s own epistles 
(1 Pet. iv. 3). There is no direct command in the Mosaic 
law forbidding Jews to associate with those of other nations. 
De Wette calls in question the truth of the statement; and 
Zeller regards it as a p£oof of the falsehood of the narrative. 
He refers to the case of Izates king of Adiabene, who 
was told by Ananias, a Jewish merchant, that he might 
worship God without being circumcised (Joseph. Ant. xx. 
2 . 4). And besides, considering the mercantile spirit of the 
Jewish nation, it was an impossibility for them to avoid in¬ 
tercourse with the Gentiles; not to mention that Cornelius 
had to some extent already adopted the Jewish religion. 1 
But this objection evidently proceeds on a strained inter¬ 
pretation of the text. Peter makes a general statement, 
that there was a repugnance among Jews to associate with 
Gentiles. The Jewish laws of clean and unclean meats 
necessarily prevented them from mixing freely with the Gen¬ 
tiles, lest by partaking of their food they should be defiled. 
And it is to eating that the words of Peter seem chiefly to 
refer; for the accusation brought against him by the Jewish 
Christians was, u Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and 
didst eat with them ” (Acts xi. 3). Although the Jews were 
permitted to transact business with the Gentiles, yet all inti¬ 
mate acquaintance was disallowed. a Moses,” says Josephus, 
u does not allow those who come to us without living after 
our laws to be admitted into communion with us” ( Contra 
Apion , ii. 29). Hence the Jews became obnoxious to the 
heathen for their unsocial character, and for the hatred and 

disdain which they bore to all other nations. Thus Tacitus 


1 De TVette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 96 ; Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 



observes of them : u They harbour the bitterest animosity 
against all other nations ” ( Hist . v. 5) ; and Juvenal says that 
“they will not point out the way unless to those of their 
own religion, and that they will conduct those only to the 
fountain inquired after who are circumcised ” (Sat. xiv. 103). 

Ver. 29. ’ AvavTippyrws—without opposition , without hesi¬ 
tation, promptly. Tlvl \oyw—for ichat reason ? Although 
Peter knew the reason, both from revelation and from the 
messengers of Cornelius, yet he desires him to relate it for 
the benefit of the company, and that Cornelius himself might 
be the more impressed by the narration. 

Ver. 30. ’A7to rerdprys ypepas pe^pt Tavrys tt)? wpa<; 
irjpyv vy erred cov—four days ago I was fasting until this hour. 
Different meanings have been attached to these words. Some 
(De Wette, Neander) suppose that Cornelius fasted for four 
days, until the hour when he saw the vision. According to 
this opinion, however, Cornelius would make no special men¬ 
tion of the day on which he had seen the vision, and which 
alone w r as important; and besides, ravrys rys wpa<; evidently 
refers to the present hour, not the hour wdien the vision 
happened. Others (Heinrichs, and formerly Meyer) suppose 
that the words mean that Cornelius fasted four days, reckon¬ 
ing backward from the present time. But besides the im¬ 
probability that his fast would continue after he had seen the 
vision, ypyv, the historical tense, cannot be understood so as 
to include the present. Others (Beza, Grotius, Kuinoel, 
Olshausen, Bengel, Lechler, Alford, Wordsworth, andMeyer 
in his last edition) suppose that the meaning is, that four days 
ago Cornelius was fasting until this very hour of the day in 
which he was speaking to Peter,—namely, the ninth hour. 
This agrees exactly with the time mentioned. The mes¬ 
sengers of Cornelius took two days to go to Joppa, and two 
to return ; so that four days had elapsed from the time 
that Cornelius had seen the vision. Tavrys rys copas — this 
hour ; the hour of the day in which Cornelius was speaking 
with Peter, and which was the ninth (ryv ivdryv), or three 
in the afternoon—the same hour of the day on which Cor¬ 
nelius four days ago had seen the vision. 



Vers. 30-32. We have here a second account of the 
vision of Cornelius. The angel is described, according to 
his appearance, as u a man in bright clothing.” (See Matt, 
xxviii. 3.) And whereas in ver. 4 the prayers and alms are 
combined, and are said to ascend up together; here they are 
separated—the prayer is heard, and the alms are remembered 
before God. 

Ver. 33. ’Evgottlov tov 0 eov — before God; i.e. in the 
presence of God. He who so wonderfully arranged matters 
as to call us together, is present with us, to assist you in 
speaking and us in hearing. 

Ver. 34. ''Otiov/c ecrn 7rpoo-(D7ro\7]pL7rTr)<; 6 0eo? — that God 
is not a respecter of persons. II poo-co7ro\r)pLTTT7]$) a word un¬ 
known in classical Greek, found only in this passage of the 
New Testament, compounded of \a/x(3dveiv and nrpbcrcmrov. 
The meaning here is, that God has not a more favourable 
regard to the Jews than to the Gentiles. It was no easy 
lesson for Peter and the Jewish Christians to learn that the 
distinction between Jews and Gentiles was now abolished— 
that God is the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. 

Ver. 35. b4\V ev iravrl eOvei 6 (pofiovpievos avrov^ etc.— 
But in every nation he that feareth Him , and ivorketli righteous- 
ness , is acceptable to Him. These words have been perverted 
as if they taught the superfluousness of faith in the doctrines 
of Christianity. It has been urged, if a man be only a good 
man, if he be religious and virtuous, he will be accepted 
by God, whatever his faith may be : it is not creed, but 
practice, that God requires. But evidently this is not the 
doctrine taught us in these words. Even De Wette asserts : 
u To understand this expression 3e/eTo? avrco iarcv as if it 
meant the equal value of all religions, and to discern in 
it a palliation of indifferentism, is the greatest exegetical 
trifling.” 1 Peter is speaking of the admissibility of the 
Gentiles into the church of Christ: and he here asserts 
that there is no natural obstacle in the way of any one who 
fears God and works righteousness; that there is now no 
barrier such as circumcision, no external hindrance, but that 
1 De Wette’s Apostelgescliichte , p. 97. 



all are equally acceptable to God. As Meyer well puts it, 
36 /cto? avTM icrTLV indicates the capability in relation to God 
to become a Christian, but not the capability to be saved 
without Christ; or, as Bengel observes, non indifferentissimus 
religionum , sed indifferentia nationum hie asseritur} u As 
to these memorable words of Peter,” observes Neander, u the 
sense cannot be, that in every nation, every one who only 
rightly employs his own moral power will obtain salvation : 
for had Peter meant this, he would, in what he added, an¬ 
nouncing Jesus as Him by whom alone men could obtain 
forgiveness of sin and salvation, have contradicted himself. 
But evidently Peter spoke in opposition to the Jewish 
nationalism : God judges men not according to their descent 
or non-descent from the theocratic nation, but according to 
their disposition. All who, like Cornelius, honour God up¬ 
rightly, according to the measure of the gift entrusted to 
them, are acceptable to Him; and He prepares by His grace 
a way for them, by which they are led to faith in Him who 
alone can bestow salvation.” 2 

Vers. 36-38. The grammatical construction and interpre¬ 
tation of these verses is very difficult. The question resolves 
into this : What governs rov \o<yov (ver. 36) in the accusa¬ 
tive ? The different interpretations arrange themselves into 
two classes : the one which unites ver. 36 with vers. 34, 35, 
and the other which unites it with vers. 37, 38. 

The first class of interpreters connect ver. 36 with the 
preceding sentence. According to this view, the words are 
to be translated as follows : u In truth, I perceive that God 
is not a respecter of persons; but in every nation he that 
feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to 
Him: (this is) the word which He sent to the children of 
Israel, preaching peace (between Jews and Gentiles) through 
Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all.” This is the reading 
adopted by Tischendorf, who places a comma after earl in 
ver. 35.° Some (De Wette, Baumgarten, Lange, Alford) 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 228 ; Bengel, in loco. 

2 Neander’s Planting , vol. i. pp. 74, 75. 

3 We have accordingly, following Tischendorf, so translated it in 



suppose that t ov \6yov is governed by fcaTaXapbftdvopLcu, I 
perceive , in ver. 34. Others (Beza, Castalio, Grotius) take 
top \6yov ov as equivalent to ov \6yov —“ which word He 
sent to the children of Israel.” Others (Rosenmilller, Bengel) 
suppose that Kara is to be supplied — u according to the 
word which He sent to the children of Israel.” Olshausen 
supposes rov Xoyov to be the accusative absolute, and connects 
it with fie/cro? avrcp ecm. 1 According to Ewald, rov Xoyov, 
etc., is an explanation of hucaiOGvviqv —“ God is no respecter 
of persons; but in every nation, every one will be acceptable 
to Him who practises that fear and righteousness which He 
has declared to Israel in the gospel, promising peace through 
Jesus Christ.” 2 The objection to all these interpretations 
is, that it makes the sentence involved; and almost necessi¬ 
tates us to give an improbable meaning to eLpyjvrjv, as if it 
signified peace between Jews and Gentiles. (See below.) 

The second class of interpreters (Erasmus, Luther, Hein¬ 
richs, Kuinoel, Meyer, Winer, Lechler, Wordsworth) con¬ 
nect ver. 36 with what follows, and suppose rov \o<yov to be 
governed by v/xels olSare of ver. 37. 3 According to this inter¬ 
pretation, there are three successive sentences governed by 
v/.cels oihare. Peter indicates that what he was about to state 
was already known to his hearers in a threefold manner: 

1. As the word sent to the children of Israel —rov \6<yov\ 

2. As events which had happened — to <yevo[ievov ppp^a; 

3. As regards the person of Jesus of Nazareth—’ Ipcrovv , etc. 4 
One objection to this is, that the construction is interrupted 
by a parenthesis, ooro? iarcv irdvroov Kvptos, preceding the 
governing verb. u In Acts x. 36,” observes the distinguished 
grammarian Winer, u rov \6yov is probably connected with 

our version, although the other interpretation appears to us the more 

1 Olshausen on the Gospels and the Acts , vol. iv. p. 374. 

2 Ewald’s Geschichte des Volkes Israel, vol. vi. p. 230. 

3 According to this view, the words are to be translated: “ Ye know 
the word which He sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace, peace, 
through Jesus Christ: He is Lord of all; even the matter which hap¬ 
pened thoughout all Judea,” etc. 

4 Lange’s Bibelwerk: Apostelgeschichte , p. 172. 


ver. 37; and the words outo?, etc.—which, as an independent 
clause, express a leading thought, which Peter could not well 
connect by a relative—form a parenthesis; and in ver. 37 
the speaker, after this interruption, proceeds by an extension 
of the thought.” 1 The strongest objection to this rendering 
is, that Cornelius and his company did not know tov Aoyov. 
u These new hearers,” observes Bengel, u knew the history 
concerning which Peter presently speaks; but they did not 
as yet know its inner bearings and principles, concerning 
which he treats in this verse.” 2 But to this it is answered 
that the gospel is here spoken of in general terms, without 
reference to its inner bearings and principles, as announcing 
salvation through Jesus Christ; and it is not improbable that 
Cornelius and his companions, considering their residence in 
Judea, and their religious disposition, would be generally 
acquainted with it. 

Ver. 36. Elppvpv — peace. Some (De Wette, Heinrichs, 
Alford) understand this of peace between Jews and Gentiles, 
as in Eph. ii. 17; but this is here an unnatural interpretation, 
there being no allusion to such a peace in the context. Rather 
by peace is here meant salvation in general (Meyer)—the 
glad tidings of the gospel. IldvTcov —masculine, not neuter: 
Lord of all men, and therefore of the Gentiles as well as of 
the Jews. This description evidently refers not to God, but 
to Jesus Christ, the last antecedent: He is the supreme Head 
and King of men. 

Ver. 37. To yevopuevov pi)pa — the thing ( spoken of) which 
happened. 'Prjpa, according to Meyer, signifies not the thing, 
but the word: it resumes the delineation of tov Aoyov , for¬ 
merly mentioned. To pi) pa certainly does not signify merely 
the thing, but the thing adverted to or spoken of; hence the 
matter, the report, the history : 3 You know the thing to 
which the word (o Aoyof) refers. Tevopevov has been trans¬ 
lated, published , or which was spoken of; but as afterwards 

1 Winer’s Grammar of the New Testament , p. 586. 

2 Bengel’s Gnomon , in loco. 

3 observes Dr. Wordsworth, “ means more than A oyog. A6yog 
is the word; but pvjpot is the matter or thing declared by the word.” 



the events of the life of Jesns are mentioned, it is better to 
translate it happened (see Luke ii. 15, iii. 2). ’ Ap^dyevov 

airo r i}? TaXCkala ?— beginning from Galilee. Jesus Christ 
commenced His ministry, and His fame had its beginning, in 

Ver. 38. ’’I'gcrovv t ov airo Na^apeO — Jesus of Nazareth. 
ITjGovv governed by vyecs ol'Sare — u Ye know Jesus.” Cor¬ 
nelius must have been acquainted with the chief facts of the 
life of Jesus. He was a resident in Caesarea, which, although 
at that time a Roman city, was within the country of Judea, 
and formerly formed part of the kingdom of Herod and of 
his son Archelaus. The fame of the miracles of Jesus must 
during His life have reached Caesarea; for although it does 
not appear that He ever visited that city, yet He could not 
have been far from it when He came to the coasts of Tyre 
and Sidon. Several Christians would at this time be resident 
in Caesarea, and perhaps a Christian church was already 
planted there by those who were scattered abroad at the per¬ 
secution which arose about Stephen. Philip the evangelist, 
we are informed, came to Caesarea (Acts viii. 40), and without 
doubt carried on his evangelistic labours in that city. Add 
to all this, that the pious and inquiring spirit of Cornelius 
would lead him to examine into the facts connected with the 
life and death of Jesus. e^pcaev avrov 6 0eo?— how God 
anointed Him with the Holy Ghost. This refers chiefly to the 
miraculous powers with which Jesus was endowed, and which 
manifested themselves in healing all that were oppressed by 
the devil. These miraculous powers were not unknown to 
Cornelius: he must have heard the fame of the miracles of 
Jesus. "On 6 0eo? rjv yer avrov — because God icas with 
Him; i.e. Jesus was the commissioned messenger of God 
(John iii. 2). The mysterious relation between the Son and 
the Father is not excluded by this general expression, but is 
not prominently brought forward, because Peter accommo¬ 
dates himself to his hearers, and leads them gradually to 
higher views of the person and doctrine of Christ. u He 
speaks somewhat sparingly of the majesty of Christ, so as to 
adapt himself to the capacity of his hearers ” (Bengel). 



Ver. 39. 'Hyeis yapTvpes—we are witnesses. You know the 
report, and we are witnesses of the facts. *Ov /cal dveiXav — 
whom also they slew. By /cal, u also,” etiam,, there is a 
reference to the other sufferings of Jesus inflicted on Him 
by the Jews. Peter was not ashamed to own that the 
person whom he preached as the Messiah suffered an igno¬ 
minious death, that He was taken by His own countrymen 
and hanged on a tree; since the ignominy of His death was 
removed by the circumstances which he proceeds to relate. 
The shame of the cross was done away with by the glory of 
the resurrection. 

Vers. 40, 41. "ESco/cev avrov iy^avi) yeveaOai — showed 
Him openly; literally, u gave Him to become visible.” Ov 
7ravTL rw \aw — not to all the people , i.e. not to all the Jews. 
'AWa ydprvcuv — hut to witnesses. The office of an apostle 
was to bear witness of Christ’s resurrection (Acts i. 22). 
npoKe^eipoTovypevoi^—chosen before. This word only occurs 
here in the New Testament: it refers to the time when they 
were chosen to be the apostles, which happened before the 
resurrection of Christ. Omz'e? avvetydyoyev /cal avverrloyev 
avrw — who did eat and drink with Him; referring not to the 
communion of the apostles with Christ before His death 
(Bengel), but to His eating and drinking with them after 
His resurrection, as an evidence of its reality. The fact is 
here stated, that Christ did not appear publicly after His 
resurrection to the Jews, and so confound His enemies by 
His presence; but that His appearance was restricted to 
chosen witnesses. It would be out of place to assign the 
reasons for this fact: this has already been well done by 
Paley and other writers on the evidences. We would only 
remark that the evidence which God gave of the resurrection 
of Christ by the miraculous gifts conferred on the chosen 
witnesses of it, was more convincing to the world than His 
appearance in the temple for several days could have been. 

Ver. 42. Ta> A aw—to the people. Not to the Gentiles as 
well as to the Jews (Kuinoel); but to the Jews, which is the 
only meaning assignable to Aao? in this connection (ver. 41). 
KpiTrjs %d>vTcov /cal ve/cpwv—Judge of the living and dead. 



Olshausen understands by the living those who are spiritu¬ 
ally alive, and by the dead those who are spiritually dead. 
But this is certainly an erroneous interpretation, not justified 
by anything in the context; and it is an important canon of 
interpretation, u that a figurative sense of words is never 
admissible except when required by the context” (Alford). 
The words are to be taken in their obvious sense: by the 
living are meant those who will be alive at the time of the 


advent, and by the dead those who will then be dead. 

Ver. 43. Tovrw iravres ol TrpocfrriTcu yapTopovaiv—to Him 
all the prophets hear witness. All the prophets in general— 
the prophetical class. It is to be observed that Peter first 
mentions the person, miracles, and resurrection of Christ as 
things that w T ere known to Cornelius and his company; and 
then contents himself with telling them in general that the 
Jewish prophets bore witness to Him: and the reason of this 
is, because he was at present addressing a company of Gentiles 
to whom miracles were the most obvious proof of a divine 
commission, but who were comparatively ignorant of the 
Jewish prophecies. Compare the difference in Paul’s mode 
of reasoning with the Jews and with the Gentiles : in the one 


case his appeal is to prophecies, and in the other case to 
miracles. TIdvTa rov TruTTevovra et? avrov—every one icho 
believes on Him. Here there is no limitation to the Jews, 
but a declaration of the universality of Christianity: all 
national restrictions were at an end. This statement is most 
appropriately placed by Peter at the conclusion of his dis¬ 

Ver. 44. "Etl \o\ovvtos too Tlerpov ra prjyara—While 
Peter ivas yet speaking these words. Having declared the 
universal nature of Christianity, Peter would doubtless have 
applied it to the present circumstances ; but the effusion 
of the Spirit, while he was in the act of speaking, ren¬ 
dered all further continuation of his discourse unnecessary, 
and indeed impossible. Peter’s speech, like Stephen’s, is 
left unfinished; but he was not, like Stephen, interrupted 
by the outcries of a raging multitude, but by the inspired 
utterances and praises of believers. ’EireTrecrev to JJnevya 


to ayiov C7n 7 tclvtcls — the Holy Ghost fell on all. This 
is the only example in the Acts of the miraculous in¬ 
fluences of the Spirit being bestowed before baptism. In 
^ general, this gift was conferred after baptism, and the im¬ 
position of the hands of the apostles. Olshausen supposes 
that this singular event happened for the sake of Peter, in 
order that he might be assured that the Gentiles without 
circumcision should be received into the church of Christ; 
but Peter had already learned this truth by the vision granted 
him. Meyer and De Wette think that the reason was on 
account of the peculiar susceptibility of Cornelius and his 
company. But others as susceptible received the Spirit in 
the ordinary manner. The probability is, that this exception 
to the general rule was made for the sake, not of Peter, but 
of his companions, in order that they might be convinced of 
the admission of the Gentiles without circumcision into the 
kingdom of Christ, and might bear testimony in regard to it 
before the church of Jerusalem. Thus were Cornelius and 
his company consecrated to God as the first-fruits of the 
Gentiles to Christ; and thus did God, by directly receiving 
them into the Christian church, through the effusion of His 
Spirit, enjoin that they should receive the initiatory rite of 

Yer. 45. Ol etc irepiToyr]^ ttlcttoI — believers of the circum¬ 
cision; i.e. the six Jewish Christians who accompanied Peter 
from Joppa. Henceforth Luke distinguishes Christians 
into two classes—those of the circumcision, and those of the 
uncircumcision : calling the former Jews, and the latter 
Gentiles or Greeks. ’EtjecrTycrav — were astonished. The 
Jews had a proverb, that the Holy Ghost never rested upon 
a Gentile; and this astonishment proves that such a notion 
was prevalent even among the Jewish Christians. ’Ett\ ra 
eOvr)—on the Gentiles. Cornelius and his company repre¬ 
sented, in the view of the astonished Jewish Christians, the 
whole Gentile world: they rightly regarded it as a proof 
that the barrier between Jews and Gentiles was now broken 

Yer. 46. AaXovvr gov y\d>aaai<; — speaking with tongues. 



For the phenomenon of speaking with tongues, see note at 
the end of Section ill. Here, and in Acts xix. 6 , it is 
simply fyXeocro-cu?, not erepais 7 Xtoercrat?, as in Acts ii. 4. 
We are not therefore constrained to suppose that these Gen¬ 
tile converts spoke in foreign languages, as the converts on 
the day of Pentecost did; but the meaning may only be, 
that they gave vent to inspired utterances, holy ejaculations: 
for we are told that they heard them speaking with tongues, 
and magnifying God . 1 Baumgarten thinks that in this 
speaking with tongues there is a bond of connection between 
the speaking on the day of Pentecost, which was the praises 
of God uttered in foreign languages, and the speaking of 
the Corinthian church, which consisted of ecstatic utterances. 

Ver. 47. To vScop—the water. Not water, as in our 
version, but the water, as co-ordinate with the Spirit — to 
livedpa — u Can any forbid the water, that these should not 
be baptized, who have received the Spirit? ” The two great 
parts of baptism—the sign, and the thing signified. Al¬ 
though Cornelius and his company had received the sub¬ 
stance, yet Peter did not consider the symbol unnecessary. 
Non elicit: jam hahent Spiritum , ergo aqua car ere possunt 

Ver. 48. Tlpocrera^ev ainovs (3 aimer 6 gnat — he ordered 
them to he baptized. Peter did not baptize them himself, but 
ordered others to perform that ceremony. So our Lord did 
not Himself baptize, but His disciples; and it was Paul’s 
usual custom to employ others to administer baptism (1 Cor. 
i. 17). ’ EmpLeivaL — to remain. And, as we are in the next 

chapter informed, Peter complied with the request: he re¬ 
mained, and did eat with them (Acts xi. 3). 

1 See however Wordsworth, in loco. 

2 B 

VOL. I. 


PETER’S APOLOGY.— Acts xi. 1-18. 

1 But the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard 
that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 And when Peter 
was come up to Jerusalem, they of the circumcision disputed with him, 
saying, 3 Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with 
them. 4 But Peter began and explained it in order to them, saying, 
5 I was in the city of Joppa praying : and in an ecstasy I saw a vision, 
a certain vessel, as a great linen cloth, descending, being let down from 
heaven by the four corners; and it came even to me: 6 On which 
when I had gazed, I considered, and saw quadrupeds of the earth, and 
wild beasts, and reptiles, and birds of heaven. 7 And I heard also a 
voice saying to me, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 8 But I said, By no 
means, Lord: for nothing common or unclean ever entered into my 
mouth. 9 But a voice answered the second time from heaven, What 
God has cleansed, that regard not thou as common. 10 And this was 
done thrice, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11 And, behold, 
immediately three men, sent from Caesarea to me, stood at the house 
where I was. 12 And the Spirit bade me go with them. And these 
six brethren also accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house. 

13 And he related to us how he saw the angel in his house standing and 
saying to him, Send to Joppa, and call for Simon, surnamed Peter: 

14 Who shall speak to thee words by which thou and all thy house shall 

be saved. 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, 
as on us in the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, 
how He said, John baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized 
with the Holy Ghost. 17 Since then God gave them the like gift as 
to us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, how then was I able to 
withstand God ? 18 When they heard these things, they were silent, 

and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles given 
repentance unto life. 


Ver. 8. IT av before kolvov of the textus receptus is found 
in G, H, but is wanting in A, B, D, E, N, and is rejected 
by recent critics. Ver. 9. Mol before cjxovrj is found in E, 




G, H, but omitted in A, B, N, and is accordingly rejected 
by Tischendorf, Lachmann, and Meyer. Yer. 12. The 
words fjirjSev htaKpivopevov^ found in E, G, H, are wanting in 
D ; A, B, x read yrjSev hiaKplvavra or hiaKplvovra. Tischen¬ 
dorf has omitted the words entirely. Yer. 13. After 'lorrirriv 
the textus receptus has avhpas, found in E, G, H, but wanting 
in A, B, D, N, and rejected by recent critics. 


Yer* 1. 01 arrocTTokoL—the apostles. It is quite uncer¬ 
tain who of the apostles w r ere at this time in Jerusalem. It 
would seem that on Paul’s visit, shortly before this, only 
Peter and James the Lord’s brother were there. Kara rgv 
'lovhalav —not in Judea (English version), but throughout 
Judea. "Otl ical ra eOvrj eSetjavro rov \o<yov rod Oeov — 
that the Gentiles had received the word of God. This event 
must have created great excitement among the Jewish Chris¬ 
tians : the important consequences arising from it could 
hardly be over-estimated. Hitherto the gospel had been 
preached to those only who had embraced the Jewish re¬ 
ligion—it was the gospel of the circumcision ; but now, by 
the conversion of Cornelius, the door was opened to the 
Gentiles. The conversion of Cornelius was rightly regarded 
not as an exceptional case, but as a proof that the Gentiles 
in general might without circumcision be received into the 
church of Christ. 

Yer. 2. 01 etc 7 repcroyu%— they of the circumcision . It is 
disputed who are here meant. All the brethren then in Jeru¬ 
salem belonged to this class : they were either Jews or Jewish 
proselytes. Accordingly some (Olshausen, Meyer, Stier) 
suppose that all the Christians in Jerusalem, including the 
apostles themselves, contended with Peter—found fault with 
him on account of his free intercourse with the Gentiles. 
But it would seem that ol etc 7repLToyf}<; are here mentioned 
as a special class among believers, and not as a mere designa¬ 
tion of the disciples in general. * Accordingly others (Calvin, 
Lechler, Lange, Alford) restrict this description to those who 


were strict Jews—who gave special prominence to circum¬ 
cision, and to the observance of the Mosaic law in general. 
The phrase seems afterwards to have been employed to de¬ 
signate the Judaizing Christians—those who regarded the 
observance of the law of Moses, if not absolutely essential 
to salvation, yet of the greatest importance; and Luke pro¬ 
bably here employed the phrase with the meaning which was 
attached to it at the time he wrote (Alford). It is not im¬ 
probable that even some of the apostles may have at this 
time belonged to this class ; but it is highly improbable that 
all the apostles and brethren would unite in finding fault 
with Peter. A letcplvovro 7 rpo? avrov — disputed with him. 
From this it is evident that believers knew nothing of the 
supremacy of Peter, much less of the infallibility which the 
Fomisli Church ascribes to him : they freely call in question 
his conduct, and find fault with him. 

Ver. 3 /'On elarjXOe^ 7 rpo? av&pa$ aicpofivcrTLav eyovTas, etc. 
—Thou 10 entest in to men uncircumcised , and, didst eat with them. 
It is to be observed that they do not find fault with Peter for 
baptizing the Gentiles, but for holding intercourse with them, 
and especially for eating with them (comp. Gal. ii. 21). They 
accuse him of breaking the Jewish laws with regard to the dis¬ 
tinction of meats. This was the great offence which in their 
view he had committed—a grave offence against the notions 
and practice of the legally disposed among the brethren (see 
note to Acts x. 28). This may be considered as the com¬ 
mencement of the Jewish controversy which troubled the early 
Christian church. The great controversy which then existed 
was not concerning any of those doctrines which afterwards 
gave rise to our modern controversies, such as the divinity of 
Christ, the nature and extent of the atonement, and predes¬ 
tination ; but it was concerning the bearing of the Jewish reli¬ 
gion on the Gentiles. The point discussed was, whether the 
gospel should be preached to the uncircumcised Gentiles—the 
admissibility of the Gentiles into the church of Christ. 
Afterwards, in the celebrated Council of Jerusalem, the 
question was revived in a somewhat different shape—whether 
the converted Gentiles were bound to be circumcised, and to 



keep the Jewish law. u Certain taught the brethren, say¬ 
ing, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, 
ye cannot be saved” (Acts xv. 1). And after this point was 
settled, various other points of dispute arose with regard to 
the extent to which the Mosaic law was binding on the 
Gentiles, and on Christians in general. This controversy 
was chiefly carried on by the Apostle Paul on the one side, 
and by the Judaizing Christians on the other; and this gave 
rise to the first great schism which divided the church, when 
the Ebionites separated themselves, and formed a Jewish 
Christian sect, about the beginning of the second century. 

Ver. 4. ’Apfrafievo? Uerpos—But Peter began and ex¬ 
plained it in order to them. The conduct of Peter is here to 
be commended. He might have silenced his opponents by 
reason of his apostolic authority; and to this course he must 
have been tempted when unjustly accused, because he had 
faithfully obeyed the intimation of God. But instead of 
this, he defends himself in the spirit of gentleness, forbear¬ 
ance, and condescension : he calmly enters upon his apology, 
and merely states the facts, allowing these to speak for him. 

Vers. 5—10. In these verses we have the second account 
of the vision of Peter. The variations in the accounts are 
slight and unimportant. ’E/cardat^ and bpaga are here 
mentioned as synonymous. Instead of the simple expression 
icaOiegevov iirl rtfs 7 i)?, u let down to the earth,” we have the 
more enlarged form, KaOcegevriv i/c rod ovpavov , /cal rj\9ev 
a^pis ipiov, u let down from heaven, and it came even to 
me.” The attention of the apostle is here particularly 
specified : et? fjv drevlaa 5 /carevoovv , u on which, when I 
gazed, I considered,”—words which are omitted in the mere 
description of the vision. Instead of ouSeVore etyayov, u I did 
never eat,” we have ovheiroTe eiar)\9ev et? to aropa pov, 
u never entered into my mouth.” And instead of dveXrjpcjidri, 
was received up , we have the more expressive word dvea- 
irdcrdr]) ivas drawn up. For the explanation of the vision, 
and remarks upon it, see notes to ch. xi. 10-16. 

Vers. 11, 12. Here we have also a second account of 
Peter’s journey, accompanied by the messengers of Cornelius 


to Csesarea. The three men standing at the house where 
Peter was, furnished the interpretation of the vision ; and 
the intimation of the Spirit to him was an assurance of its 
correctness. ’ H\0ov Se crvv eyol kcli oi e£ dbe\<j)OL ovroi — 
and these six brethren also accompanied me. From this it 
would appear that the six brethren from Joppa, who came 
with Peter to Caesarea, also accompanied him to Jerusalem. 
Probably Peter took them with him, because he expected 
that his conduct might be called in question by the church 
of Jerusalem, or on account of the extreme importance of 
the event, in order that they might be there as witnesses of 
what took place in the house of Cornelius. They could 
testify to the direct effusion of the Holy Ghost upon Cor¬ 
nelius and his household, before Peter received them into 
the Christian church by baptism. It was of great import¬ 
ance that the facts should be fully attested. The existence 
of Christianity as a universal religion, and not as a mere 
Jewish sect, depended on the decision arrived at in this 
dispute : it was the most important crisis through which the 
church had yet passed, since its birth on the day of Pente¬ 

Vers. 13, 14. Here we have the third account of the vision 
of Cornelius. Ton ayyeXov — the angel; i.e. the angel already 
mentioned in ch. x. Luke writes from the standpoint of his 
readers, or Peter mentions the angel definitively, because he 
himself was already informed about his appearance. Pro¬ 
bably, however, the church of Jerusalem had already re¬ 
ceived a general account of the vision. Kal i rd? o ot/co? aov 
—and all thy house. These words are here added. The 
household of Cornelius were similarly disposed with himself 
(Acts x. 2), and were therefore included in the message of 
the angel. And the event justified the declaration ; for while 
Peter spake, the Holy Ghost fell on all them who heard the 
word (Acts x. 44). 

Ver. 15. ’ ETrerrecrev ro Hvevya to dyiov eir avrovs — the 
Holy Ghost fell on them. It does not appear that this effusion 
of the Spirit took place in a visible form, as was the case 
with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, when cloven 



tongues as of fire rested on each of the disciples ; but the 
descent of the Spirit was made evident in an audible manner 
by Cornelius and his friends speaking with tongues and 
magnifying God. r/ flcnrep teal eft rjfia ? —as on us ; referring 
to the fact of the descent of the Spirit, and not necessarily 
to its form. ’Ev dpyfj — i n the beginning. The beginning 
here referred to is evidently the memorable day of Pentecost, 
when the Holy Ghost in a visible form descended on the dis¬ 
ciples. This may well be regarded as the beginning of the 
Christian dispensation, the birthday of the church of Christ, 
just as the announcement of the law at Sinai was regarded 
as the beginning of the Jewish dispensation : both events 
happened at the same period of the year, namely at Pente¬ 
cost. If, as is most probable, the call of Cornelius is to 
be dated after Paul’s departure from Jerusalem to Tarsus, 
then a period of nearly eight years had elapsed between the 
effusion of the Spirit at Pentecost and the admission of the 
Gentiles into the church of Christ: for so long a period had 
Christianity been restricted to the Jews. 

Ver. 16. ’ Eyvrjcrdyv Se rod pyparos Kvptov — And I remem¬ 
bered the word of the Lord , how He said , John indeed baptized 
with water , but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. This 
word of the Lord was uttered by Him after His resurrection, 
and shortly before His ascension (Acts i. 5), with a probable 
reference to the words of the Baptist himself (Luke iii. 16). 
(See note to Acts i. 5.) Peter remembered the word. The 
saying was forcibly brought to his recollection by the event 
which happened. In the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on 
the Gentiles, he saw the fulfilment of the promise which the 
Lord had made to His apostles. Hence he regarded the 
Gentiles as included in the pronoun vyels: the promise em¬ 
braced them. If, then, argues the apostle, the Lord Himself 
bestowed on them the substance of baptism, by making them 
partakers of the Holy Ghost, surely the symbol was not to be 
denied them. By receiving the Spirit, they were already 
constituted members of the church of Christ. 

Ver. 17. El ovv ryv icryv hcopeav ehwtcev avro2<; 6 0eo? d>? 
koI r\pXv —Since then God gave them the like gift as He did to 



us; i.e Since God made no distinction between them and 
us, bestowing upon both the gift of the Holy Ghost. Ihcr- 
revaaacv — ivho believed. This participle has been variously 
understood. Some (Beza, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Humphry) 
unite it with avroL$ — on their believing ; but this is the remote 
antecedent, and is thus contrary to ordinary usage. Others 
(Alford, Hackett) suppose that it refers to both pronouns— 
clvtols and ryuv — setting forth the analogy between the two 
cases on believing. All received the same gift of the Holy 
Ghost in the same character, viz. that of believers. The 
most natural interpretation, however, is to unite it to the 
subject nearest to it, ryilv — to us who believed. So Meyer, 
Bengel, Lechler. Nor is this, as some object, an unmeaning 
addition; for it marks the special character of the Jewish 
Christians, on account of which the Holy Ghost was bestowed 
on them. As Bengel well observes : u It was not, says Peter, 
because we had circumcision, but because we had faith, that 
the Holy Ghost was given to us.” 1 

’Eya) be T69 iryxyv Bvvaros KooXvcraL tov ©eov—How then 
was I able to resist God ? Two questions are conjoined in 
one, Who am I, to resist God? And, Was I able to resist 
God ? The first question contrasts the insignificance of man 
with the majesty of God, and the second question the weak¬ 
ness of man with the omnipotence of God. The meaning 
evidently is: God, by the effusion of His Spirit, had made 
known His will that the Gentiles should be received into the 
Christian church. How then was it possible for me to oppose 
myself to this revealed will of God ? To forbid or hinder 
that which God had determined to be done, was not only an 
act of folly or impiety, but an impossibility. 

Ver. 18. 'Anovaavre^ Be t avra gav^acrav—When they heard 
these things , they were silent. The opponents of the apostle 
were silenced by his statement of the facts of the case : they 
ceased to contend. The greater part of them were probably 
convinced of the propriety of the apostle’s conduct; and thus 
their objections were changed into exclamations of praise and 
thanksgiving to God : u They glorified God, saying, Then 

1 BeDgel’s Gnomon , in loco. 



hath God to the Gentiles given repentance unto life.” Thus 
the controversy was quieted for a time : the Jewish Christians 
as a body acquiesced in the admission of the Gentiles with¬ 
out circumcision into the church of Christ. Shortly after¬ 
wards the controversy broke forth anew : it was difficult for 
the Jews to relinquish their peculiar privileges as the favoured 
people of God : it required much teaching and many reve¬ 
lations and dispensations of Providence, before they could 
assent to the fact that the law of Moses, having served its 
purpose, was at once fulfilled and abolished in Christ Jesus. 



19 Now they who were dispersed, owing to the persecution which 
arose on account of Stephen, travelled as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, 
and Antioch, declaring the word to none but to the Jews only. 20 But 
some of them were Cyprians and Cyrenians, who, when they were come 
to Antioch, spoke to the Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the 
hand of the Lord was with them ; and a great number who believed 
turned to the Lord. 

22 And tidings concerning them came to the ears of the church which 
was in Jerusalem ; and they sent forth Barnabas, to go as far as Antioch: 
23 Who, when he came, and saw the grace of God, rejoiced, and ex¬ 
horted them all with purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord. 24 For 
he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith : and a 
great multitude was added to the Lord. 25 Then he departed to Tarsus, 
to seek Saul ; and having found him, he brought him to Antioch. 
26 And it came to pass, that during a whole year they assembled in 
the church, and taught much people ; and that the disciples were called 
Christians first in Antioch. 

27 And in those days came prophets from Jerusalem to Antioch. 
28 And there arose one of them, named Agabus, and signified by the 
Spirit that there should be a great famine over the whole empire: which 
also came to pass in the reign of Claudius. 29 Then the disciples, every 
man according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren 
dwelling in Judea: 30 Which also they did, sending it to the elders 
by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. 


Yer. 20. The two readings of this verse are, ' EWriviaras, 
Hellenists , adopted by the textus receptus ; and ''EWrjvas, 
Greeks. The former reading is best attested bv external 
authorities : it is found in B, E, G, H; whereas the latter 
is found only in A, D. The Codex Sinaiticus (n) reads 
eXdXovv real irpos rovs evayyeXiards, probably a mistake for 




eWrjVLGTas : this has been changed by a later hand into 
"EWrjvas. Nevertheless the latter reading, ''EWrjvas, is 
preferred by the great majority of recent critics, as it alone 
gives a good sense. It would be nothing new or strange 
that the dispersed preached to the Hellenists; whereas it was 
a remarkable and most important fact that they preached 
to the Greeks, or uncircumcised Gentiles. Ver. 25. O Bap- 
m/3a?, found in E, G, H, is wanting in the more important 
mss. A, B, D, X, and is accordingly rejected by Lachmann, 
Tischendorf, and Meyer. Ver. 26. Autou? after ey evero he 
is found in G, H ; whereas A, B, E, N* read auTot?, the read¬ 
ing adopted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Bornemann. 
Ver. 28. The feminine yeydXyv . . . 777 ^ 9 , found in A, B, X, 
is by Lachmann, Winer, and Tischendorf preferred to the 
masculine pusyav . . . ocms, found in D, G, H. Kaiaapo 9 , 
found in E, G, Id, is wanting in A, B, D, N, and is rejected 
by recent critics. 


Ver. 19. Olpiev ovv hiaairapevre 9 — Then they zcho ivere dis¬ 
persed. Ovv — then , a connective particle. Some (Kuinoel, 
Schneckenburger, Lange) suppose that this section is directly 
connected with the conversion of Cornelius; that, in conse¬ 
quence of the intelligence of his conversion, the preachers of 
the dispersion addressed themselves to the Greeks, or uncir¬ 
cumcised Gentiles. Olshausen, although he does not go the 
length of maintaining such a direct connection, supposes the 
force of ovv to be that Luke would indicate that u this first 
attempt to preach the gospel to the Gentiles was speedily 
followed by others.” The passage is rather to be considered 
as a resumption of the narrative of the labours of the 
preachers of the dispersion : indeed, the precise words by 
which they are here described, ol yev ovv hiaairapevre 9 , occur 
in Acts viii. 4. Luke had there informed us that these 
evangelists went everywhere preaching the word in the dis¬ 
tricts of Judea and Samaria; and now he relates a further 
progress which the gospel made in consequence of this dis- 



persion : u Now they who were dispersed travelled as far as 
Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch.” 'Airo ri}? — 

owing to the persecution: in consequence of it. Trjs yevo/uevr]^ 
eVl $T€(pdvM—which arose concerning Stephen. So Erasmus, 
Beza, Luther, Castalio, Meyer, De Wette. Others (Hein¬ 
richs, Kuinoel, Olshausen, Humphry) render it after Stephen 
—post Stephanum: an admissible translation, but perhaps 
not so suitable. 1 

A LrfkSov eo)? <froLVLfcrj<j — travelled as far as Phoenicia. 
Phoenicia was a district lying along the coast of the Medi¬ 
terranean, to the north of Palestine. It is supposed to have 
received its name on account of the palm trees with which it 
abounded. 2 The native name of the district seems to have 
been Canaan, as it was the only part of ancient Canaan 
which was never subdued by the Israelites (Matt. xv. 21, 22). 
Its extent varied at different times. It is generally given as 
120 miles long, with an average breadth of 15 miles, extend¬ 
ing from the mouth of the river Eleutherus on the north to 
Mount Carmel on the south. Its chief cities were Tyre, 
Sidon, Berytus (the modern Beirut), Byblus, and Tripolis. 
Formerly Phoenicia was the most commercial country in the 
world; but in the days of the apostles its commerce had 
somewhat declined, as Antioch to the north and Caesarea to 
the south had arisen as rivals to Tyre. Under the Bomans, 
it formed part of the province of Syria. We are here in¬ 
formed that those who were dispersed preached the gospel in 
Phoenicia; and we have elsewhere in the Acts incidental 
notices of there being Christians in its two principal cities, 
Tyre (Acts xxi. 4) and Sidon (Acts xxvii. 3). Kal Kvirpov 
—and Cyprus. We defer our remarks on this large and 
fertile island until Acts xiii., where we have an account of 
its being visited by the great Christian missionaries Paul and 

Kal 'AvTio'xetas—and Antioch. This celebrated city is, 
next to Jerusalem, the most important in the apostolic 

1 See Winer’s Grammar of the New Testament , p. 410. 

2 According to others, it derived its name from the purple dye for 
which it was so celebrated. 



history; for as the church of Jerusalem may be said to be 
the mother church of the Jewish Christians, so the church 
of Antioch may be said to be the mother church of the 
Gentile Christians. It was at Antioch that the first Gentile 
church was formed; and from it, as his starting-place, Paul 
set out on his three great missionary journeys (Acts xiii. 
1, 4, xv. 40, xviii. 22, 23). Antioch was situated on the 
banks of the river Orontes, about sixteen miles from the 
Mediterranean, with which it communicated by means of its 
port Seleucia (Strabo, xvi. 2. 7). It was built partly on 
a level, and partly on the northern slope of Mount Silpius. 
The situation was well chosen both for maritime commerce 
and inland traffic. u It united,” as Howson remarks, u the 
inland advantages of Aleppo with the maritime opportu¬ 
nities of Smyrna.” 1 

Antioch was founded by Seleucus Nicator about three 
hundred years before Christ, and received its name in 
honour of his father Antiochus. Under the Seleucidae 
kings of Syria it flourished as their capital. It was composed 
of four cities joined in one, hence called by Strabo Tetra- 
polis (Strabo, xvi. 2. 4), and was surrounded by a wall fifty 
feet high and fifteen feet broad. Its principal street, formed 
by Antiochus Epiphanes, was four miles in length, adorned on 
either side with colonnades. The Jews formed no inconsider¬ 
able part of the population. Josephus tells us that Seleucus 
Nicator made them free citizens, and gave them equal 
privileges with the Greeks and Macedonians. They were 
permitted to live under their own laws; and as in Alexan¬ 
dria, they had their own governor, known by the name of 
Alabarch. They were also very successful in making prose¬ 
lytes among the Greeks (. Ant . xii. 3. 1 ; Bell. Jud. vii. 3. 3). 
Under the Romans the prosperity of Antioch increased. 
Pompey made it a free city, and it became the capital of the 
important province of Syria. u Antioch,” says Strabo, u is 
not much inferior in riches and magnitude to Seleucia on 
the Tigris, and Alexandria in Egypt” (xvi. 2. 5). u Antioch,” 
observes Josephus, u is the metropolis of Syria, and without 
1 Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul , p. 149. 


dispute deserves the place of the third city of the habitable 
earth under the Roman empire, both in magnitude and also 
in other marks of prosperity ” {Bell. Jud. iii. 2. 4). 1 In the 
third century it is said to have had a population of 300,000 
free citizens; which, allowing for a nearly equal number of 
slaves, gave a population of upwards of half a million. The 
population must have been mixed—composed of Syrians, 
Greeks, Romans, and Jews : the Greek language would, how¬ 
ever, predominate as the vehicle of ordinary communication. 
Antioch is described as the abode of luxury and wealth, 
and as excelling all other oriental cities in the magnificence 
of its palaces. After the establishment of Christianity it 
became one of the five patriarchates—Rome, Constantinople, 
Alexandria, and Jerusalem being the other four. War and 
natural convulsions were the cause first of its decline, and 
at length of its ruin. It is said to have been eleven times 
taken and pillaged, and four times destroyed by earthquakes. 
In one earthquake, which occurred in the reign of Justinian, 
a.d. 526, 250,000 are said to have perished (Gibbon, ch. 
xliii.). The once flourishing capital of the East has now 
become a wretched town: its splendid buildings are re¬ 
duced to hovels; the immense population of 500,000 is now 
diminished to scarcely 10,000 ; and nothing but its ruins 
remain as evidence of its former greatness. 2 

MrjSevl XakovvTes rov Xoyov el fir) fiovov ’IovSalow — 
preaching the word to none hut to the Jews only. At first, 
and probably for a considerable time, the preachers of the 
dispersion restricted themselves to the Jews and Jewish 

1 The two cities superior to Antioch were Home and Alexandria. 
“ Antioch and Alexandria,” observes Gibbon, “ looked down with dis¬ 
dain on a crowd of dependent cities, and yielded with reluctance to the 
majesty of Rome alone” ( Roman History , ch. ii.). 

2 For accounts of Antioch, see Winer’s biblisches Realm or terbuch ; 
Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible; Conybeare and Howson’s St. Paul; 
Merivale’s History of the Romans under the Empire , vol. v. p. 14, second 
edition ; Lewin’s Life and Epistles of St. Paid , vol. i. p. 107 ff. ; and 
Renan’s Les Apotres, ch. xii. Maps of ancient Antioch, taken from 
Malela, otherwise called John of Antioch, are given by Lewin, and 
Conybeare and Howson. 



proselytes. Like the other preachers, they still considered it 
unlawful to preach to the Gentiles: they were ignorant of 
the great truth, that the Gentiles should be received into the 
church of Christ without circumcision; a truth of which 
the apostles themselves were ignorant, until it was miracu¬ 
lously revealed to Peter. 

Yer. 20. Tives e£ avrcov—some of them ; i.e. not some of 
the Jews (Kuinoel), but some of the preachers of the dis¬ 
persion. ' r Av$pes Kvirpioi /cal Kvppvaioi — Cyprians and 
Cyrenians; i.e. natives of the island of Cyprus, and of the 
city of Cyrene in Africa, consequently Hellenistic Jews. 
The Hellenists, by coming in frequent contact with men of 
other nations, were more liberal-minded than the Hebrews; 
and consequently they were the first to break through the 
restraints of Jewish legalism. Among the Cyprian Jews, 
mention has already been made of Barnabas. The Cyrenian 
Jews were present at the day of Pentecost, and had a syna¬ 
gogue of their own at Jerusalem ; and among the preachers 
at Antioch there is special mention of Lucius of Cyrene. 

’EXaXovv /cal rods r/ EXXrjvas — spoke to the Greeks. See 
Critical Note to this verse. The two rival readings are: 
'EXXpviards, the Hellenists or Greek Jews; and ''EXXpvas, 
the Greeks, or uncircumcised Gentiles. The decided pre¬ 
ponderance of external evidence is in favour of f EXXyviards: 
only two uncial MSS., the Alexandrian and the Bezse, read 
"EXXpvas ; yet there are strong reasons for adopting this 
latter as the true reading, inasmuch as it alone conveys an in¬ 
telligible meaning. 1. There was nothing worthy of remark 
in these men preaching to the Hellenists, who had long 
before this been received into the Christian church; whereas 
their preaching to the Gentiles was a new feature of the 
case. 2. There is an implied contrast between ver. 19 and 
ver. 20. At first, those who were dispersed preached only to 
the Jews; but afterwards some of them preached to others 
who were not Jews. But there is no contrast between the 
Jews and the Hellenists: indeed, the Hellenists are included 
in the general term Aovhaioi ; whereas there is a decided 
contrast between the Jews and the Greeks—the circumcised 


and the uncircumcised. For these reasons the reading 
"EWrjvas, though more feebly attested, has been generally 
adopted by modern critics. So Griesbach, Bengel, Lach- 
mann, Tischendorf, Bornemann, De Wette, Wieseler, Meyer, 
Lechler, Alford, etc. 

The time of this occurrence is a matter of dispute. 
Some hold that it took place before the conversion of Cor¬ 
nelius, and that in reality this preaching of the gospel to 
the Greeks at Antioch was the first call of the Gentiles. 
But this is doubtful: Peter, it would seem, distinctly claims 
to have been the first to preach to the Gentiles (Acts xv. 7). 
Others think that it was in consequence of information con¬ 
cerning the conversion of Cornelius ; Peter’s example having 
emboldened them to speak to the Greeks. But there is no 
hint of this in the text. It would rather appear that this 
preaching was spontaneous on the part of the Hellenistic 
teachers. It would seem that both events were nearly 
simultaneous, and independent of each other ; the preaching 
of Peter to Cornelius being, however, the first in point of 
time. The idea was dawning upon the church that the 
gospel should be preached to the Gentiles; and this occurred 
in two different places, at Caesarea and Antioch, about the 
same time, without any connection with each other,—just 
as the Reformation arose almost simultaneously and inde¬ 
pendently in Germany, Switzerland, and France. 

Ver. 22. ’ HrcovcrOr] 6e 0 X 0709 , etc.— But the report concern¬ 
ing them came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem. The 
church in Jerusalem, as the mother church, seems to have 
exercised at this time a general superintendence over the 
other churches. The news of the conversion of Cornelius 
had probably before this reached Jerusalem ; perhaps Peter 
had already made his defence ; and thus the prejudices of 
the strict Jews toward preaching the gospel to the Gentiles 
would be somewhat abated. ’ E^airecrTeiXav Bapva/3av Sie\- 
6eiv 60)9 'AvTLoye[as — they sent forth Barnabas to go as far 
as Antioch. Two remarkable points of difference are observ¬ 
able between this mission of Barnabas to Antioch, and the 
mission of Peter and John to Samaria. 1. The apostles sent 



Peter and John ; whereas the church in Jerusalem, as a 
body, sent Barnabas. 2. Those who were sent to Samaria 
were original apostles ; whereas it was Barnabas, a man of 
note indeed among the brethren, but not one of the original 
apostles, who was sent to Antioch. Perhaps by this time 
most of the apostles had left Jerusalem. Barnabas was, 
however, in all respects a suitable person for such a mission, 
both on account of his personal character (ver. 24), and 
because he was connected with those Cyprian and Cyrenian 
Jews who now preached to the Greeks, being himself a 
Hellenist, and a native of Cyprus. By sending Barnabas, 
the church in Jerusalem showed the apostolic conception 
of the Christian church. They wished to preserve unity 
among the disciples, to draw' all believers together, and thus 
to guard against Christianity being split up into a number of 
small sects: the Jewish and Gentile Christians vrere to be 
the members of the same community. 1 The object of the 
mission of Barnabas was to examine into the facts of the 
case, to guard against any abuses that might possibly have 
occurred, and especially to prevent all schism and divisions; 
for there was a danger of a Gentile Christian church at 
Antioch springing up, as a rival to a Jewish Christian church 
at Jerusalem,—a danger which, under Providence, this mis¬ 
sion of Barnabas averted. 

Vers. 23, 24. Barnabas, when he came to Antioch, found 
nothing to correct, but much to rejoice in. When he saw 
the grace of God, as it appeared in the numerous conversions 
of the Gentiles, he rejoiced, and exhorted them with full 
purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord. IT apeicaXei — lie 

exhorted. Compare Acts iv. 36, uio? 7 rapaicXgcrecos. 'Otl — 

because. This refers x iiot to the reason why the church of 
Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch, but to the reason why 
Barnabas rejoiced at the success of the gospel among the 
Gentiles. ’ Avrjp dyados — a good man ; referring not merely 
to his uprightness of character (Meyer), but to the benevo¬ 
lence of his disposition —a benevolent man. This is the evi¬ 
dent meaning of dyados in Rom. v. 7, where it is distinguished 
1 See Olshausen on the Gospels and Acts , vol. iv. p. 378. 

VOL. I. 2 C 



from SiVato?. His benevolence effectually prevented him 
censuring anything that might be new or strange in these 
preachers to the Gentiles, and caused him to rejoice in their 
success, and in the remarkable proofs of the divine blessing 
upon their labours. 

Ver. 25. ’E^rjXOev 8e eU Tapcrov dvatprrjaat 2avkov — 
Then he departed to Tarsus to seek Saul. The conversion 
of numerous Gentiles rendered additional assistance neces¬ 
sary for their instruction. Hence the thoughts of Bar¬ 
nabas were directed toward Paul, with whose miraculous 
conversion he was intimately acquainted. u He needed 
assistance. He needed the presence of one whose wisdom 
was higher than his own, whose zeal was an example to all, 
and whose peculiar mission (to the Gentiles) had been 
miraculously declared.” 1 We were already informed that 
Paul, on his departure from Jerusalem, went to Tarsus 
(Acts ix. 30). How long he had been in Tarsus before 
Barnabas sought him, is wholly uncertain. Burton supposes 
a lengthened residence of nine years; whereas Wieseler 
shortens the period to six months or a year. 2 Anger fixes it 
at two years. It is improbable that, having already entered 
upon his apostolic career in Jerusalem, he would have re¬ 
mained long in obscurity in Tarsus : a year, or a year and a 
half, was probably the utmost. Accordingly, four or five 
years would have elapsed since Paul’s conversion. 

Ver. 26. XpppLaTiaai re Trpwrov iv 'Avno^eta rou? paOpras 
XpLcrTLavovs—and that the disciples were called Christians first 
at Antioch. Xp^pariaai depends upon byevero. Xprjpa- 
rl^eLv, to transact business, to negotiate on state affairs, to 
intimate the response of an oracle; and in later Greek, to 
give a name, to be called. (See note to Acts x. 22.) Some 
(Benson, Doddridge) render it, u were called by divine ap¬ 
pointment but if this were its meaning, the name “ Chris¬ 
tians ” would have more frequently occurred in the mouth of 
believers themselves. It is only once more used in the New 
Testament in the sense of to he called (poL%a\U ^pppaTiaei, 

1 Conybeare and Howson, vol. i. p. 146. 

2 Wieseler’s Chronologic des apostolischen Zeitalters, p. 147. 



Rom. vii. 3). 1 The name u Christians ” was first given to 
the disciples at Antioch, but by whom is not mentioned. It 
is improbable that it was given by the disciples themselves. 
The name only occurs twice again in the New Testament, 
and in both instances as proceeding from those who were 
not Christians. Thus Agrippa said to Paul, u Almost thou 
persuadest me to be a Christian ” (Acts xxvi. 28) ; and Peter 
says, u If any man suffer as a Christian (the name given to 
them by their enemies), let him not be ashamed” (1 Pet. 
iv. 16). If it had originated in the church, we would have 
expected its more frequent occurrence. The names by which 
believers distinguished themselves were oi oi p^aBijral, 

oi aSeXcpoi, oi ayLOL, oi rr}$ oSov. Still less can we sup¬ 
pose that it was given them by the Jews. It is not to be 
imagined that they would give the sacred name X/hctto? to 
those whom they regarded as heretics and apostates. The 
name which they applied to them was oi Na^copaiot (Acts 
xxiv. 5), a term of contempt. It therefore remains that the 
name proceeded from the Gentiles. Its form is in favour of 
this. The Romans called a political or religious body by the 
name of its leader or founder; as, for example, the Herodians, 
the Epicureans, etc. So we read in the civil wars of the 
Pompeians and Caesarians, and under the empire of the 
Othonians and Vitellians. Ewald supposes that the name 
was given by the Roman government at Antioch ; but such 
a supposition is unnecessary : for although the word is of 
Roman origin, yet the Greeks would naturally adopt the 
Latin form of their political rulers. It would seem that the 
Gentiles, mistaking the appellative 6 Xpuaros for a personal 
name, used the term XpuiTiavoi to denote those who believed 
that Jesus was the Christ. Believers were called Christians, 
not Jesuits. 2 So Tacitus : Valgus Christianos appellabat . 
Am tor nominis ejus Christus, Tiberio imperitante, per procu- 
ratorem Pontium Pilatum supplieio affectus erat {Ann. xv. 44). 
The bestowal of the name is a proof of the great progress 

1 See Olshausen on the Gospels and the Acts, vol. i. p. 65. 

2 It is singular that whereas Christian is an honourable name, Jesuit 
is frequently used as a term of contempt. 



which Christianity had made among the Gentiles. So long 
as Christianity was confined to the Jews and Jewish prose¬ 
lytes, the Christians would not be distinguished from them, 
and would be regarded by the Gentiles as a Jewish sect; 
but now the fact that numerous Gentiles were received 
without circumcision into the church was a proof that Chris¬ 
tianity was different from Judaism ; and thus the disciples 
could no longer be regarded in the same point of view as 
the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and other Jewish sects. 
Hence arose the necessity of a distinctive name; and no name 
could be more appropriate than that of their great Founder. 
Some suppose that the name was given in a spirit of ridi¬ 
cule ; l but there is no reason for this supposition, except that 
from a few T notices it would appear that the people of Antioch 
were famed for their wit. There does not appear to have 
been anything sarcastic in the name itself. But although, in 
all probability, the name proceeded from the enemies of the 
church, yet believers not only soon adopted it, but gloried in 
it: it became the name above every name; believers suffered 
martyrdom rather than renounce it; and the declaration, 
u I am a Christian,” was their noble confession before their 
heathen persecutors. 

Ver. 27. KarrjXOov curb 'IepocroXv/icov—came from Jeru¬ 
salem. Not fled from Jerusalem (Evvald), as the persecu¬ 
tion had long before this ceased; nor sent by the church of 
Jerusalem, of which there is no intimation; but came of 
their own voluntary impulse. IIpo(j)rjTaL — prophets. These 
inspired teachers are frequently mentioned in the New Testa¬ 
ment. They appear to have exercised their gifts in super¬ 
natural teaching ; having a divine insight into the truths of 
the gospel; piercing with the eye of the soul into spiritual 
realities. The mere foretelling of the future does not seem 
with them, any more than with the prophets of the Old 
Testament, to have been an essential part of their prophetical 

Yer. 28. ''Ayaftos — Agabus. Agabus at this time must 
have been comparatively a young man, as twenty years 

1 As in modern times the names Quakers, Puritans, Methodists, etc. 



afterwards lie is mentioned as coming from Jerusalem on 
purpose to warn Paul not to approach that city (Acts xxi. 
10). Some, without reason, suppose that he was one of the 
seventy disciples; according to tradition, he suffered martyr¬ 
dom at Antioch. 'Eaggavev hia too Uvev/iaTO<;—signified 
by the Spirit. The prophecy of Agabus is characterized as a 
real prediction—a revelation of the Holy Ghost. Plence all 
natural explanations are to be rejected as contrary to the 
text; as that the famine had already commenced, or that 
Agabus saw the symptoms of it in deficiency of the crop and 
in dearness of provisions (Eichhorn, Pleinrichs, Winer). 
'Ecf) o\rjv T7jv oLKovpevrjv■—over the whole empire. Different 
meanings have been given to this expression. Some trans¬ 
late it, over the whole land , and suppose that the land of 
Palestine is meant. 1 But these words were spoken to the 
Gentiles at Antioch : therefore, although rj oifcovgevr] might 
mean “the habitable land,” yet they could not understand 
that Palestine was meant by it ; it would be more natural in 
them to refer it to Syria. The word is commonly used by 
Greek and Roman writers to signify the Greek and Roman 
world, and is hence employed to signify the Roman empire. 
"Hns real iyevero iirl KXavhlov—which also came to pass in 
the reign of Claudius. Claudius reigned thirteen years, from 
the year 41 to 54. In his reign, and therefore within these 
years, this famine took place. It is not implied that this 
prediction of Agabus was made before Claudius commenced 
to reign, but it is merely an intimation by the historian when 
the famine occurred. 

The reign of Claudius was disastrous, by reason of the 
number of famines which occurred in it. History records 
four. In his first and second years (a.d. 41, 42) there was 
a great famine in Rome (Dion Cass. ix. p. 949); in his 
fourth year (a.d. 44), Josephus mentions a great famine 
which prevailed in Judea (Ant. xx. 2. 5) ; in his tenth year 
(a.d. 50), Eusebius records a great famine in Greece (Euseb. 
Citron, i. 39) ; and in his twelfth year (a.d. 52), Rome was 
again visited by so severe a famine, that the people rose in 

1 See this opinion ably maintained by Lardner, vol. i. pp. 132-134. 



rebellion, and Claudius was in imminent danger of his life 
(Tacitus, Ann. xii. 43 ; Suetonius, Vit. Claud, xix.). These 
famines appear to have been local; but their frequency 
proves that there must have been a scarcity over the whole 
empire. The particular one here alluded to was probably 
that which visited Judea in the years 44, 45 ; for it was to 
Judea that the disciples of Antioch sent assistance. This 
famine, Josephus tells us, occurred when Cuspius Fadus 
and Tiberius Alexander were governors of Judea. Now 
Fadus came to Judea on the death of Herod Agrippa i., in 
the autumn of 44, and Tiberius Alexander succeeded him 
about a year and a half afterwards. This famine was so 
severe, that many died for want of food. It was relieved 
by the generosity of Helena queen of Adiabene, and of her 
son Izates, Jewish proselytes, then in Jerusalem. Helena, 
Josephus informs us, bought corn at great expense in Cyprus 
and Egypt, and caused it to be distributed among those who 
were in need (Joseph. Ant. xx. 2. 5 ; 5. 2.) Eusebius alludes 
to the same famine ; and he adds : u You will find this state¬ 
ment in accordance with the Acts of the Apostles, where it is 
said that, according to the ability of the disciples at Antioch, 
they determined each one to send to the assistance of those 
in Judea” (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. ii. 12). 

Ver. 29. Tot? Karoucovcnv ev rfj ’ IovSala aSeA^ot? — to the 
brethren dwelling in Judea. It is disputed whether this relief 
was sent to Judea before the famine broke out, in dependence 
on the prophecy of Agabus, or after it had commenced. 
Neander and Baumgarten adopt the former view ; Wieseler, 
Lechler, and Meyer, the latter. 1 The latter view has been 
supported by the following considerations : Until the famine 
had commenced, the disciples could not have known that Judea 
was the place specially adverted to in the general prophecy 
of Agabus ; and until the occasion arose, the relief would be 
unnecessary. Besides, it would seem from the next chapter, 
that Barnabas and Paul were in Jerusalem with their con¬ 
tribution shortly after the death of Herod Agrippa (Acts 
xii. 25) ; and according to Josephus, the famine then com- 
1 See Wieseler’s Chronologic, p. 149. 



menced. The Gentile Christians, in thus sending assistance 
to the brethren of Judea, manifested a spirit of true Christian 
liberality : they felt deeply indebted to them for spiritual 
benefits, and therefore they embraced the opportunity of 
repaying them in temporal gifts (Rom. xv. 27). Some 
suppose that the Christians in Jerusalem had become im¬ 
poverished by reason of the community of goods established 
among them; but whatever prejudicial effect such an insti¬ 
tution might have had upon the wealth of the church, this 
relief was sent, not on account of this impoverishment, but 
to meet a temporary necessity. As Queen Helena ministered 
to the wants of the Jews in general during the famine, so 
did these Christians of Antioch minister to the wants of their 
Jewish brethren, who, on account of their religion, might 
have been neglected in the national distribution. 


Ver. 30. ’ ATrocrTeLXavTes 7rpo9 rov 9 7 rpecrfivTepovs — sending 
it to the elders. This is the first time that the elders are 
mentioned in the Acts. We have no account of the origin 
of the eldership, as we have of the deaconship. It is gene¬ 
rally supposed to have been instituted after the pattern of 
the Jewish elders attached to the synagogues. Some sup¬ 
pose that by the elders here the Jewish elders are meant, and 
that the collection was sent, not specially to the Christians, 
but to the Jews in general. Others think that Christians 
are meant, those who still retained the office of elder in 
the synagogues. But certainly the most natural interpreta¬ 
tion is, that the elders or overseers of the Christian church 
are here meant. 01 'rrpeo-ftvTcpoi are in the New Testament 
identical with oi eiricncoiroL. See Acts xx. 17, 28 ; Phil. i. 1; 
1 Tim. i. 5, 7 ; 1 Pet. v. 1, 2. So Theodoret, on Phil. i. 1, 
observes : , E7ncr/c67rov<; tol>? irpeafivTepovs icakei' aycporepa 
<yap el'xpv tear etceivov t ov naipov ra ovbyara (quoted by 
Meyer). So Alford observes : u The title eirlcncoTTo 9 , as 
applied to one person superior to the 7 rpea/3uTepoL y and 
answering to our bishop, appears to have been unknown in 
the apostolic times.” 

Alcl xeepos Bapvdf3a Ka\ Xav\ov—by the hands of Barnabas 
and Saul. Here a difficulty occurs. How are we to explain 



this second visit of Paul, after his conversion, to Jerusalem, 
with what he himself says in Gal. ii. 1 ? According to the 
account in the Epistle to the Galatians, he went up to 
Jerusalem three years after his conversion, when he con¬ 
tinued for fifteen days ; and fourteen years after that, he 
went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas. Some (Zeller, Meyer) 
hold that these accounts are utterly irreconcilable, and that 
there is an error here in Luke’s history. Neander also 
expresses himself in a doubtful manner. u What conclusion,” 
he asks, u must we draw from this, relative to the account in 
the Acts? Nothing more than this: that the tradition which 
Luke followed, and which united Paul and Barnabas in their 
labours at this period, joined them here together, although 
for some reason this was an exception; or else Paul might 
have been chosen as a delegate, but some unknown circum¬ 
stance might have prevented his taking the journey. At 
least we can more easily admit an oversight here, than resolve 
to do violence to Paul’s own declaration.” 1 Various attempts 
have been made at a solution of this difficulty. De Wette 
supposes that both Paul and Barnabas went into Judea, but 
that Barnabas only went to Jerusalem. But this is an 
evasion of the difficulty ; for, as Zeller observes, u if we are 
constrained, in spite of the assertion of the author, to affirm 
that Paul was not at Jerusalem, what assurance have we that 
Barnabas went thither, and that the whole narrative has any 
historical foundation?” 2 Both Paul and Barnabas must 
have gone to Jerusalem ; for we are expressly told that they 
returned from it (Acts xii. 25). Schleiermacher supposes 
that this journey of the eleventh chapter is identical with 
that of the fifteenth chapter, and that it was originally men¬ 
tioned in ch. xi. 30 in anticipation, but that the compiler of 
the Acts mistook it for a separate journey, and by ch. xii. 25 
represented it as such. But such a supposition does not 
lessen the difficulty, but only removes it to another place : it 
still supposes an error on the part of Luke. Others, again, 
think that this journey, and not that mentioned in ch. xv., is 

1 Neancler’s Planting, vol. ii. p. 105. 

3 Zeller’s Apostelgeschichte, p. 223. 



the same as the one mentioned in Gal. ii. But the dates do 
not correspond. This journey took place shortly after the 
death of Herod Agrippa I., and consequently in the year 44, 
which by no calculation will admit of being fourteen years 
after Paul’s conversion, as was the case with the journey 
mentioned in Galatians. The true solution seems to be, 
that Paul in his epistle does not mention all his visits to 
Jerusalem, but only those which were of importance for 
the object he had in view—the establishment of his apostolic 
office. There may have been other visits not mentioned 
during the fourteen years which intervened between the two 
visits of which he writes. Now in this visit it does not 
appear that he met with the apostles, but only with the 
elders : Peter at least was absent, having retired from Jeru¬ 
salem after his miraculous release from prison (Acts xii. 17). 
When, then, we consider the purpose Paul had in view in 
the Epistle to the Galatians, and the nature of this visit, the 
argumentum a silentio cannot be applied as an objection 
against its occurrence. This view of the subject is adopted 
by Ewald, Baumgarten, Lechler, and Lange. 


PERSECUTION BY HEROD.— Acts xii. 1-19. 

1 Now, about that time, Herod the king laid hands on certain of the 
church to vex them. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with 
the sword. 3 And seeing that it was pleasing to the Jews, he pro¬ 
ceeded to seize on Peter also. Then were the days of unleavened bread. 
4 Whom having apprehended, he put in prison, delivering him to four 
quaternions of soldiers to keep him, intending after the passover to 
bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in the 
prison ; but earnest prayer was made by the church to God concerning 
him. 6 But when Herod was about to bring him forth, the same night 
Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains; and 
the keepers before the door guarded the prison. 7 And, behold, an 
angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the room ; and he 
smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise quickly. And 
his chains fell off from his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, Gird 
thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And he did so. And he saith unto 
him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. 9 And having gone 
out, he followed him ; and did not know that it was true which was done 
by the angel; but he thought he saw a vision. 10 And having passed 
through the first and second watch, they came to the iron gate that leads 
to the city; which opened to them of its own accord : and having gone 
out, they went along one street; and immediately the angel departed 
from him. 11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I 
certainly know that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me 
out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people 
of the Jews. 12 And having become aware of it, he came to the house 
of Mary the mother of John, surnamed Mark; where many were 
assembled, and were praying. 13 And as he knocked at the door of 
the gate, a maid came to hearken, named Rhoda. 14 And when she 
knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for joy; but running in, 
told how Peter stood before the gate. 15 And they said to her, Thou 
art mad. But she affirmed confidently that it was so. Then they said, 
It is his angel. 16 But Peter continued knocking : and having opened, 
they saw him, and were astonished. 17 But he, beckoning to them 
with the hand to be silent, related how the Lord had brought him out 
of prison. And he said, Tell these things to James and the brethren. 




And he departed, and went to another place. 18 But when it was 
day, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had 
become of Peter. 19 And when Herod had sought for him, and found 
him not, he examined the keepers, and ordered them to be led to 


Yer. 5. *E/crevr )?, found in E, G, H, is preferred by 
Tischendorf and Lachmann to etcTevm^ found in A, B, X. 
Ilepiy found in A, B, D, K, is preferred by Tischendorf and 
Lachmann to virep, found in E, G, H. Yer. 8. The simple 
verb §£aat of A, B, D, X, is preferred by Tischendorf 
and Lachmann to the compound verb nrepL^coaai, found in 
E, G, H. Yer. 13. Avtov before rgv Ovpav, found in 
A, B, D, a, is by recent editors preferred to rod IleTpov , 
attested by E, G, H. 


Yer. 1 . Kar i/cecvov Se rov fcaupov — Now about that time. 
The date of this persecution by Herod was a.d. 44, the year 
in which he died. The time here referred to is the one 
year’s residence of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, before 
their visit to Jerusalem; as the famine, for the relief of 
which they were sent, did not happen until after the death 
of Herod, when Fadus was governor of Judea. (See 
Wieseler’s Chronologies p. 152.) 

0 /3acrL\evs — Herod the king. This monarch, 
called by Josephus, Agrippa, and commonly known by the 
name of Herod Agrippa 1 ., was the son of Aristobulus, and 
the grandson of Herod the Great; he was the nephew of 
Herod Antipas, the brother of Herodias, and the father of 
that Agrippa before whom Paul made his defence. Sent at 
an early age to Rome, he obtained the favour of the Emperor 
Tiberius, and was educated along with his son Drusus. 
Toward the close of that emperor’s reign he fell into dis¬ 
grace, on account of paying open court to Caius Caligula ; 
and in consequence of using some unguarded expressions he 



was cast into prison, where he remained for six months, 
until the death of Tiberius. Caius Caligula, on his accession 
to the imperial throne, set him at liberty, changed his iron 
chain for one of gold of the same weight, and bestowed 
upon him the tetrarchies of Philip (Iturea and Trachonitis), 
and of Lysanias (Abilene), with the title of king (Ant. xviii. 
6. 10). This excited the envy of his uncle Herod Antipas, 
the tetrarch of Galilee, who also coveted the royal dignity. 
In order to obtain it he repaired to Pome, but was there 
accused by his rival Agrippa with such effect, that Herod 
Antipas was banished to Lyons, and the tetrarchy of Galilee 
was added to the dominions of Agrippa (Ant. xviii. 7. 2 ; 
Bell. Jud. ii. 9. 6). After the murder of Caligula, Herod 
took an active part in securing the succession of Claudius, 
and for this important service was rewarded by the gift of 
Samaria and Judea (Ant. xix. 5. 1). Thus Judea was for 
a short period partially freed from the Roman yoke, and had 
in Herod Agrippa for the last time a monarch of its own. 
He ruled over all the territories which were formerly pos¬ 
sessed by his grandfather Herod the Great; and to these 
were added Abilene, or the kingdom of Lysanias (Bell. Jud. 
ii. 11. 5). The revenue which he derived out of these do¬ 
minions was very great. According to Josephus, it amounted 
to twelve millions of drachmae (Ant. xix. 8. 3), a sum which 
has been calculated to be equal to £425,000 sterling. He is 
described by Josephus as an excellent monarch, mild in his 
temper, and liberal to all men ; generous in his tastes, and 
desirous of securing the good opinion of his subjects; not 
cruel like his grandfather, but of a gentle and compassionate 
disposition ; loving to reside in Jerusalem, and strict in his 
observance of the Mosaic law (Ant. xix. 7. 3). This cha¬ 
racter is certainly drawn by a partial pen. Herod Agrippa 
was evidently a man of considerable ability, but crafty and 
extravagant, and always acting with a selfish regard to his 
own interests. He may not have had the splendid talents of 
his grandfather, but his reign was not stained by many acts 
of cruelty. His reign was of short duration : he ruled four 
years under Caligula, during three of them over the tetrarchies 



of Philip and Lysanias, and in the fourth year Galilee was 
added to his government; but the duration of his reign over 
the whole of Palestine, under Claudius, amounted only to 
three years (Ant. xix. 8. 2). Although he left a son, the 
Agrippa of the Acts, yet he did not succeed ; and with the 
death of Herod the Jewish kingdom became for ever extinct. 
Judea was again reduced to a Roman province, and Cuspius 
Fadus was sent as its governor. 1 

'Eirefiakev ra? ^ eipa ? —laid hands on. Not to be taken in 
the sense of iire^elpricre (Acts ix. 29), attempted (Heinrichs, 
Kuinoel), but in the ordinary sense of the words, laid hands 
on. Herod seized on certain of the members of the church, 
in order to maltreat them. The full construction is, €7re/3a\ev 
t a? yelpas eirl nvas tcov curb t?}? e/c/cXpo-la? rov KaKwaat 
avrovs (Alford). KatcchcraL rtra? tcov diro Trjs i/cfcXpcrlas — 
to vex certain of the church. The enemies of the church had 
now increased in numbers and influence. At first they were 
confined to the members of the Sanhedrim, especially the 
Sadducean faction, whilst the people were favourable. After¬ 
wards, in the persecution which arose about Stephen, the 
people and their rulers united; but still the civil power in 
the hands of the Romans was not hostile. But now the civil 
power in the person of Herod is combined with the eccle¬ 
siastical power of the chief priests and the fanaticism of the 
people, against the disciples of Christ. 

Ver. 2. ’A vei\ev 3e I clkco(3ov tov dSeXcpbv ’ Icoavvov—he 
slew James the brother of John. This was James the son 
of Zebedee, called u the Elder,” to distinguish him from the 
other apostle of the same name, James the son of Alphseus. 
He was one of Christ’s three favourite disciples who only 
were permitted to witness the raising of the daughter of 
Jairus, the transfiguration, and the agony in the garden. 
He was the first of the apostles who suffered martyrdom. 
Our Lord’s 1 prediction concerning him was fulfilled. He 
now drank of the cup of which Christ drank, and was bap- 

1 Coins of Herod Agrippa i. have been preserved, with the inscrip¬ 
tion, fiotoiT^ivg payocg Aypi7T7rccg (piT^oKcaaoip. See Akerman’s Numismatic 
Illustrations , p. 38 ; Madden’s Jewish Coinage, p. 106. 



tized with the baptism with which He was baptized (Matt, 
xx. 23). The time of his martyrdom was shortly before the 
passover of the year 44, and the place was Jerusalem. 

Whereas the death of Stephen is described at great 
length, the martyrdom of James, one of the chief apostles, 
is related in two words : avelXev — psayaipp. Various reasons 
have been assigned for this brevity. Lekebusch, with much 
probability, supposes that Luke’s design was to mark the pro¬ 
gress of the church; and for this reason he gives the account 
of Stephen’s martyrdom at length, because the disciples, dis¬ 
persed on account of it, were the bearers of the gospel to a 
distance; whereas no such effect followed the martyrdom of 
James : it was not the signal of a new persecution, by which 
an impulse was given to the diffusion of the gospel. 1 Meyer 
thinks that Luke intended to write a third history, in which 
he would give a narrative of the labours of the other apostles, 
besides Peter and Paul, and that he reserved for it the 
account of the death of James. 2 Baumgarten thinks that 
Luke had nothing further to relate; that James died without 
giving any testimony. Ecclesiastical tradition, however, has 
supplied what was apparently wanting in Luke’s narrative. 
Clemens Alexandrinus tells us that the man who led James 
to the judgment-seat was converted by his testimony, and 
confessed himself a Christian. Both were led away to die. 
On the way he entreated James to forgive him, who replied, 
u Peace be to thee,” and kissed him ; and then both were 
beheaded at the same time (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. ii. 9). 

Mayaipp—with the sword. The Romans had deprived the 
Jews of the power of life and death ; but Judea was at this 
time under the rule of a native prince who possessed that 
power. Slaying with the sword was a Roman form of 
punishment; but according to Lightfoot, it had been adopted 
by the later Jews, and was regarded by them as a disgraceful 
death. 3 John the Baptist was slain in a similar manner by 
Herod Antipas. 

1 Lekebusch’s Quellen cler Apostelgeschichte, pp. 218, 219. 

2 Meyer’s Apostelgescliiclite , p. 247. 

3 Liglitfoot’s Horse Hehraicse , vol. iv. p. 105. 



Ver. 3. ’ISoov Se ort dpearov ecrTiv rot? TovbaioLs —and 
seeing that it was pleasing to the Jews. Josephus tells 
us that Herod Agrippa was greatly desirous of popularity. 
He had before his accession to the throne of Judea gained 
the favour of the Jews, by employing his influence, at 
great personal risk, to dissuade Caligula from erecting his 
statue in the temple of Jerusalem. He fixed his chief resi¬ 
dence in Jerusalem, and was strict in the observance of the 
Mosaic law. To please the inhabitants of Jerusalem, he 
relieved them of the house-tax, and erected splendid public 
buildings. He also commenced to surround the city with a 
new wall, so as to render it impregnable. u This king,” 
observes Josephus, u was by nature very liberal in his gifts, 
and ambitious to oblige people with large donations; and he 
rendered himself illustrious by the many costly presents he 
made. He took delight in giving, and rejoiced in living in 
good reputation” {Ant. xix. 7. 3). 1 To obtain popular ap¬ 
plause was one of the chief motives which influenced the 
conduct of Herod ; and for this reason he sacrificed the life 
of James, and now desired to sacrifice the life of Peter. It 
was pleasing to the Jews. The people were now hostile to 
the Christians. The Pharisees, the popular faction, had 
declared against them. Perhaps observing the numerous 
conversions to Christianity, they regarded the Jewish religion 
as in danger, and looked upon Christians in general, as they 
did on Stephen, as blasphemers of Moses and of God. The 
reception also of the Gentiles without circumcision must have 
increased the Jewish fanaticism. 9 Hcrav Se ai pyepac rwv 
atyycov —Then were the days of unleavened bread. For seven 
days at the feast of the passover the Jews had to eat un¬ 
leavened bread (Ex. xii. 15). The passover itself was par¬ 
taken on the first day, but the feast was continued six days 
longer; hence it is called u the feast of unleavened bread” 
(Ex. xii. 13). 

Ver. 4. Teaaapatv i erpaS/ot? arparicorcov —to four quater¬ 
nions of soldiers. A quaternion of soldiers was a company of 

1 See an account of Herod Agrippa’s popular measures, in Biscoe on 
the Acts , pp. 48-50. 



four, so that there were sixteen who guarded Peter. They 
would be appointed to guard in turns ; four during each of 
the four watches into which the night was divided. Accord¬ 
ing to some, two soldiers were with Peter within the prison, 
and two before the door; but according to others, the two 
soldiers within, who slept with Peter, remained all night, and 
did not belong to the quaternion who guarded the prison out¬ 
side. Mera to Traaya—after the passover. Wieseler supposes 
that the day of the passover, the 14th of the month Nisan, 
was the day of Peter’s imprisonment; and that the day after, 
the 15th, was designed to be the day of his execution. 1 But 
by Tzaaya here is meant not merely the day on which the 
passover was partaken, but the whole paschal feast, which 
lasted seven days, corresponding with al ppbepai rwv aty/icov. 
According to the strict Jews, it was not reckoned lawful to 
defile their festal days with executions ; 2 and Herod Agrippa 
prided himself on being a strict observer of the law. The 
rule, however, was not observed in the case of Christ, who 
was crucified on the paschal week. 

Yer. 5. f O /aev ovv JTerpo? er^pelro ev rfj (pvXatcfj—Peter 
therefore was kept in prison. Herod put James to death, 
and seized on Peter with the intention of slaying him also, 
because they were the two most prominent leaders of the 
Christian church in Jerusalem : the one was designated by 
the Lord u the Son of Thunder,” and the other u the Pock.” 
’E/crevys, earnest , a word peculiar to the later Greek (1 Pet. 
iv. 8). To oppose the power of Herod, the church betakes 
itself to earnest prayer,—a weapon more powerful than all 
the resources of the monarch of Judea. 

Ver. 6. Tfj w/crl itceivr) — on that night; namely, the night 
before the day when Herod had resolved to bring him forth 
to the people. Mera^v Suo err par loot wv SeSepuevos akvcreaiv 
8 v(tlv— between two soldiers , bound with two chains. It is cer¬ 
tainly not said that Peter was chained to these two soldiers, 
but only that he was bound with two chains. However, we 
learn that it was the Roman mode of securing prisoners to 

1 Wieseler’s Chronologie des apostolischen Zeitalters , p. 215. 

2 Non judicant die festo was the rule given in the Talmud. 



chain them to the arms of soldiers. In general, the prisoner 
was bound only to one soldier : the soldier, we are informed, 
had the chain fastened to his left arm, while the prisoner 
had it fastened to his right. Occasionally, for greater 
security, the prisoner was bound to two soldiers, one on each 
side. Thus probably Paul was to be secured, when the chief 
captain commanded him to be bound with two chains (Acts 
xxi. 33). Herod himself, when cast into prison by Tiberius, 
was thus bound; Josephus speaks “of the soldier to whom 
he was bound ” {Ant, xviii. 6. 7). This practice of chaining 
prisoners to soldiers is frequently adverted to by ancient 
writers ; thus in the Epistles of Seneca we read, Quemadmo- 
dum eadem catena et militem et custodiam copulat (Epist. v.). 

Ver. 7. ''AyyeXos Kvplov—an angel of the Lord; not “the 
angel of the Lord,” a phrase which does not occur in the 
Acts. There was an objective appearance of an angel to 
Peter, and not a mere impression or vision, as is evident 
from the narrative. O beg part — in the room. Not the prison 
(Meyer), but the cell in which Peter was confined. 

Ver. 8. TlepifdaXov to igdroov crov — Cast thy garment about 
thee. The cloak or outer garment, which had been cast off 
before going to sleep. Peter was to do all things leisurely 
to gird himself, bind on his sandals, and put on his upper 
garment, as if he were in no danger. 

Ver. 9. E^eXOcov — having gone out; that is, from his cell. 
’Ebo/cei Se 6 papa fiXeTrecv •— he thought he saw a vision. He 
was taken with such surprise, and thrown into such confusion, 
that he was not aware that what had happened was a real 
occurrence, but thought that it was a dream. There is a 
beautiful ecclesiastical legend which this deliverance of Peter 
recalls to recollection. It is said that, when Peter was in his 
last imprisonment at Pome, he made his escape; and as he 
went along the street, he met the Lord Jesus bearing His 
cross. Peter asked Him whither He was goino; ? Our Lord 
replied, To Rome to be crucified. Peter returned immediately 
to" prison, and on the following day was crucified, and by his 
own request with his head downwards—considering himself 
unworthy to suffer death in the same manner as his Master did. 

YOL. I. 2D 


All rationalistic explanations to account for this deliverance 
of Peter are in direct opposition to the narrative. According 
to Hezel, a flash of lightning shone into the prison, and 
loosened the chains of Peter. According to Eichhorn and 
Heinrichs, the jailor or others, with his knowledge, delivered 
Peter, without the apostle being conscious to whom he owed 
his freedom; and as the soldiers are a difficulty in the way 
of this explanation, they suppose that a sleeping draught was 
administered to them. All this is mere trifling. Others 
endeavour to get rid of the miraculous by questioning the 
correctness of the narrative. Meyer and De Wette think 
that the truth is here so mixed up with the mythical element, 
that it is impossible to affirm what actually took place. 1 Baur 
supposes that Herod himself delivered the apostle, as he 
found in the interval that the people were not gratified by 
the death of James, but that, on the contrary, that proceeding 
had made him unpopular. 2 Neander passes over the narrative 
with the remark: u By the special providence of God, Peter 
was delivered from prison.” 3 When once the miraculous in 
the narrative is given up, the only resource is the mythical 
theory—to call in question the truth of the history—as all 
natural explanations are wholly unavailing. The narrative 
here, however, has no resemblance to a myth : there is a 
naturalness and freshness about it, which remove it from all 
legends of a mythical description. 4 

Ver. 10. zhe\0oyre? 8e irpcorov (jovXa/crjv koX hevrepav — 
and having passed through the first and second watch. After 
leaving his cell, Peter and his angelic guide passed the first 
and second watch—that is, the other two soldiers of the 
quaternion who watched before the door. Some, however, 

1 Meyer’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 249 ; De Wette’s Apostelgeschichte , p. 
105. So also Dr. Davidson observes: “ The basis of the story is some 
unexpected deliverance of the apostle, which was afterwards set forth in 
a mythic dress” ( New Introduction , vol. ii. p. 251). 

2 Baur’s Apostel Paulas , vol. i. p. 184. 

3 Neander’s Planting, vol. i. p. 102. 

4 So Renan himself admits : “ The account in the Acts,” he observes, 
“ is so lively and just, that it is difficult to find any place in it for any 
prolonged legendary elaboration.” 



assert that the word Sl6\0ovt€<; (passed through) implies that 
there were more than one soldier who constituted each watch. 
Trjv rrvXrjv ryv cnSypav — the iron gate. The gates of fortified 
places in the East were covered with iron. This was the 
outside gate, which led from the prison to the street. The 
prison is supposed to have been the tower of Antonia. 

Ver. 11. ’Ev eavrcp yevo/aevos — came to himself. All was 
done in such haste, that Peter had no time to recover from his 
surprise; but now, being left by the angel, and finding himself 
in the street, he recovered his self-consciousness: he became 
aware that his deliverance was no dream, but a reality. 

Ver. 12. Xwihchv — having become aware. Not, “when 
he had considered” (Vulgate, Grotius), either “what he 
ought to do” (Bengel), or “ the state of matters” (Beza) ; 
but, when he had become aware of his deliverance from 
prison. HvveiSco, to see, or perceive with oneself, hence to 
become aware. T ?}? Mapias r ?}? yrjrpb^ ’Icoavvov, tov eiruca- 
\ovpevov Map/cov — of Mary the mother of John , surnamed 
Mark. John was a common name among the Jews, and 
therefore he is distinguished by his Latin surname Marcus. 
He was, without doubt, the same who accompanied Paul and 
Barnabas to Cyprus (Acts xii. 25, xiii. 5, xv. 27). He was 
sister’s son to Barnabas—o dne^to? Bapvd(3a (Col. iv. 10) 
—and consequently the Mary here mentioned was the sister 
of Barnabas. 1 There is no reason to discredit the commonlv 
received opinion, that this Mark was the same whom Peter 
calls his son (1 Pet. v. 13)—that is, his convert—and who 
was the author of the second Gospel. Ov r/aav luavoX avvrj- 
OpoiayevoL, real irpoaev^byevoi — 'where many were assembled , 
and were praying. This was a midnight assembly of the 
Christians, either for fear of their Jewish enemies, or more 
probably on account of the pressing necessity and importance 
of the case (ver. 5). The primitive Christians in those times 
of peril held their sacred assemblies in the night season; and 
afterwards in peaceful times these nocturnal assemblies were 
continued, owing to their greater solemnity, and on account 

1 The meaning of dvsiptog is, however, disputed, many critics rendering 
it, not “nephew,” but “cousin.” 


of a prevalent persuasion that the Lord Jesus would come 
during the night. 

Ver. 13. Trjv 6vpav too n rvXwvos—the door of the gate. 
0 vpa is probably the small outside door that formed the 
entrance from the street into the court or area where the 
house was; irvkwv was the large door or gate of the parti¬ 
cular house. 1 ’’Ovofian 'Pohrj —named Rhoda y or Lose. The 
Jews frequently gave to their female children the names of 
plants and flowers: thus Susannah signifies a lily, Esther a 
myrtle, and Tamar a palm tree. 

Ver. 15. f O ayyeXos octtlv avrov—it is his angel. Some 
(Hammond, Basnage, Du Veil) render this, “It is his mes¬ 
senger,” and suppose that the disciples thought a messenger 
had been sent by Peter out of the prison. No doubt this is 
a common meaning of ayyeXos ; but against this interpreta¬ 
tion are the considerations, that the disciples could not have 
expected such a messenger, and that it is expressly said that 
Rhoda recognised the voice of Peter. Others take ayyeAo? 
in the sense of TTveoga, and suppose that the disciples thought 
that it was the spirit of Peter which came to give them a 
premonition of his death; but the notion that the soul leaves 
the body of a man before his death does not seem to have 
been adopted by the Jews, nor would they have employed 
the word ayyeXos to express it. The only meaning of which 
the words are capable is — it is his angel. The idea of 
guardian angels is here alluded to. This belief is chiefly 
founded on these words of our Lord : u I say unto you, 
That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of 
my Father which is in heaven ” (Matt, xviii. 10). This 
notion, that each individual has his guardian angel, was 
strongly maintained by the early Fathers. Thus Chrysostom, 
in commenting on this passage, observes : “ Thus it is true 
that each one of us lias his own angel : oti etcacrro^ rjgwv 
dyyeXov eyet.” How far the doctrine of guardian angels is 
scriptural is a difficult question. The words of our Saviour 
may be interpreted as asserting the guardianship of angels 
in general, and not that a particular angel is attached to 
1 For another interpretation, see Robinson’s Lexicon — Qupot. 



eacli individual. And as to the phrase in the text, there is 
in it no announcement of doctrine, but merely the expres¬ 
sion of the opinion of those assembled in Mary’s house. The 
belief in guardian angels was not confined to the Jews, but 
was common both to the Greeks and Romans. Every scholar 
will recall the famous instance of Socrates. 

Ver. 17. ’ AirapyeiXaTe 'Ia/cdo/3(p — announce to James. 
This James is doubtless the so-called bishop of Jerusalem, 
who afterwards is several times mentioned in the Acts and 
in the Epistle to the Galatians. He appears to have been 
a person of considerable weight and importance among the 
apostles. Paul calls him one of the pillars of the church. 
As to the question whether he was the same with James 
the son of Alphseus, one of the original apostles, see note 
at the end of this section. 

’E^eXOoov eiropevOr) eh ere pop toitov — having departed to 
another place. Whither Peter betook himself is not men¬ 
tioned. Meyer thinks that it is not necessary to suppose 
that he even left the city ; for e^eXOdv, he observes, does 
not signify relictd urhe , but relictd domo. But it is not said 
that he entered into the house, and certainly the natural 
meaning is that he left the citv. The reason of his de- 
parture was a regard to personal safety. Baumgarten 
thinks that this was unworthy of an apostle, and that he 
left because the tie which bound the apostles to Jerusalem 
was now broken: “ After such abominations, Jerusalem 
neither could nor ought to be the peculiar and permanent 
resting-place of the apostles .” 1 But this is a reason foreign 
to the text. Peter was delivered from prison in order to 
escape danger; and his departure was no cowardice, but 
merely a compliance with the intimations of Providence. 
He followed the injunction of Christ: “When they perse¬ 
cute you in one city, flee ye to another.” 

Yer. 18. Tevoyevi 79 he gyepa ^— but ivhen it icas day. Peter 
must have escaped during the last watch, otherwise his de¬ 
parture would have been observed before daybreak, when 
the guard was changed. If, however, the two soldiers in 
1 Baumgarten’s Apostolic History , pp. 313, 314. 



the cell remained all night, this supposition is unnecessary, 
’j Ev Tot? (TTpaTuoTcu ?— among the soldiers; that is, among the 
sixteen soldiers who were appointed to guard Peter, and 
especially among the particular quaternion who were on 
guard when Peter made his escape, and who would have 
the most reason to fear the consequences. 

Ver. 19. ’ KtceXevcrev dira^drjvai—ordered them to he led 
to execution . 5 Aircuy o> signifies to lead away , and in a 
judicial sense to lead to execution; hence d r rra,yQr)vai in the 
passive, to he led to execution , to he put to death. Thus Pliny 
in his celebrated letter to Trajan, speaking of the Christians, 
says: “When they again confessed, and I had the third time 
questioned them with threats of punishment, seeing them 
obstinate, I commanded them to be led away,” that is, 
to be put to death. We are not to think that this was an 
extraordinary act of cruelty on the part of Herod. A soldier 
to whom a prisoner was entrusted, and who permitted his 
escape, was held guilty of a capital offence. Nor is it neces¬ 
sary to suppose that the whole sixteen soldiers were put to 
death, but only the four who were on guard at the time of 
the escape. 


After the death of James the brother of John, there is 
frequent mention in the Acts and the Pauline epistles of 
another James. He was a person of great importance in 
the Christian church. Peter directs that information of his 
escape should be sent to him; he presides at the celebrated 
Council of Jerusalem; mention is made of those who came 
from James to Antioch; to him Paul repairs on his arrival 
at Jerusalem; he is called the Lord’s brother, and one of 
the three pillars of the church. Now, besides James the 
brother of John, there was another James among the 
apostles, called James the son of Alphseus. The question 
has been raised whether James “the Lord’s brother” was 



the same as James the apostle, “ the son of Alphseus;” or 
whether they were different persons. 

There are three opinions: 1. That this James “the Lord’s 
brother,” who is so prominently mentioned in the Acts and 
the Pauline epistles, was an apostle, and the cousin of our 
Lord, the same with James the son of Alphseus. 2. That he 
was the son of Joseph and Mary, and not one of the original 
apostles. 3. That he was the son of Joseph by a former 
marriage, and was therefore called a brother of our Lord. 

The first opinion asserts the identity between James 
“the Lord’s brother,” and James “the apostle, the son of 
Alphaeus.” According to this hypothesis, it is supposed that 
the word “ brother” is used in a lax sense to signify “ cousin.” 
The argument by which this opinion is maintained is as 
follows:—The brethren of Christ are stated to have been 
James, and Joses, and Simon, and'Judas (Matt. xiii. 55; 
Mark vi. 3). Now three of these names—James, and Joses, 
and Judas—are elsewhere mentioned as the names of the sons 
of Mary, the sister of the Virgin, and the wife of Clopas. 
We are informed that there stood at the cross of Jesus His 
mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, 
and Mary Magdalene (John xix. 25); and it is elsewhere 
said that this Mary, the sister of the Virgin, was the mother 
of James the Less and Joses (Matt, xxvii. 56; Mark xv. 40) : 
consequently these two—James and Joses—were the cousins 
of our Lord. Again, it is maintained that Alphseus is in 
Hebrew the same name as Clopas; 1 so that James the apostle, 
the son of Alphseus, is the same as the above-mentioned 
James the cousin of our Lord: and we know that he had 
a brother named Judas, another of the apostles (Acts i. 13). 
Hence these children of Clopas, or Alphseus, and Mary the 
sister of the Virgin—namely, James, and Joses, and Judas— 
are regarded as the same as those bearing the same names 
who are mentioned as the brethren of Christ. The names 
are the same, and to identify them we have only to suppose 
that the word “ brethren ” is used in an extended sense so as 
to include cousins. 

1 Winer’s Worterluch —Alphseus. 



This opinion, however, is supported by some doubtful 
suppositions, rests on arbitrary assumptions, and is liable to 
several objections. 1. It is ^doubtful whether Mary the 
wife of Clopas was the sister of the Virgin. John says : 
u There stood at the cross of Jesus His mother and His 
mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magda¬ 
lene.” Now these words may be read as mentioning four 
women at the cross: first, our Lord’s mother and her sister, 
whose name is not given ; and secondly, Mary the wife of 
Clopas and Mary Magdalene. On this supposition, the 
sister of our Lord’s mother and Mary the wife of Clopas 
are different persons. As we learn from the other evange¬ 
lists that Salome the mother of John was at the cross, some 
suppose that it was she who is intended by a His mother’s 
sister.” Besides, it is very unlikely that the Virgin and her 
sister would both be called by the same name. 1 It is also 
doubtful if Toii&a? ’IaKGofiov is to be translated “ Judas the 
brother of James,” and not rather u Judas the son of James.” 
And it is by no means a certainty that the names Clopas and 
Alphseus are identical. 2. It is an arbitrary assumption that 
the word “ brethren ” here signifies u cousins.” The word 
brethren is frequently used in Scripture in a metaphorical 
sense, but without any danger of misconception. In only 
two instances is it used to signify a relationship different 
from that of a brother. Lot is called the brother of Abra¬ 
ham, and Jacob the brother of Laban, whereas in reality 
they were merely nephews ; but it is never once used to 
denote cousins. 2 The objection is equally strong in reference 
to those who are called the sisters of Christ. 3. We are in¬ 
formed by John that “His brethren did not believe on Him” 
(John vii. 5). But according to the hypothesis that James 
the Lord’s brother was the son of Alphasus, two of these 
brethren—James and Judas—were at that time apostles. To 

1 According to this supposition, the sons of Mary the wif